New Hope On The Horizon For Many Women With Breast Cancer

There is new hope on the horizon for many women with breast cancer. New drugs have been discovered that could treat 10 to 20 percent of women with breast cancer, especially those who have an inherited predisposition to the disease due to defective BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

For some time we knew that either inherited or spontaneously mutated genes caused cancer. But we’ve also learned that two genes in particular, BRCA1 and BRCA2, play a role in both. Women with a BRCA1 mutation have an estimated 55 to 65 percent chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 70. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, that number is 45 percent. Most of these mutations occur spontaneously, though a smaller fraction—about five to 10 percent—are inherited.

Why these genes? BRCA1 and BRCA2 are involved in the repair of double-stranded breaks in DNA, which occur regularly in all cells as they grow and multiply. Ongoing repair is especially important for cancer cells, which grow at a faster rate than healthy ones, and even more so for BRCA deficient cancer cells, which require additional support to survive.

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Originally published on Forbes (July 28, 2021)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.