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Key breast cancer gene found

18th February 2011

UK researchers have taken a step forward in the fight against an aggressive form of breast cancer.

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The team of Cancer Research UK scientists have identified the gene which can cause the aggressive form of breast cancer to develop after identifying ZNF703 - the first “oncogene” to be discovered in five years.

Scientists at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Research Institute and the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada carried out the study, which is published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.

They found that ZNF703 is overactive in around one in 12 breast cancers and could account for up to 4,000 UK cases a year.

Cancer Research UK now hopes it will help in the development of new breast cancer drugs.

Professor Carlos Caldas, of the Cambridge Research Institute, led the research.

He said: “Scientists first discovered this region of DNA may be harbouring genes linked to the development of breast cancer 20 years ago. But it’s only with the technology we have today that we’ve been able to narrow down the search sufficiently to pinpoint the gene responsible.”

Professor Caldas explained that testing whether the gene was overactive in a patient’s tumour could help highlight those more likely to be resistant to standard hormone therapies and help ensure the right drugs were matched to the right patient.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said the discovery was exciting because it was “a prime candidate for the development of new breast cancer drugs designed specifically to target tumours in which this gene is overactive.”

 

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