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First breast cancer oncogene discovered for five years

Posted Mar 21 2011 11:58am

Scientists at Cancer Research UK have identified a key cancer-causing gene that can trigger an aggressive type of breast cancer to develop. An oncogene is a gene that can contribute to the conversion of normal cells into cancerous cells by mutating or being overactive. This is the first time in over five years that a new breast cancer ‘oncogene’ has been discovered. 

Researchers from Cancer Research UK and the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada believe that by conducting testing into patient’s tumours to see how overactive the gene ‘ZNF703’ really is could help doctors identify which patients have the more aggressive tumours, allowing tailored treatment to be provided.  

It is thought that as many as one third of aggressive breast cancers could have multiple copies of the gene ZNF703. In the future testing for this gene could help doctors to identify how likely it is a patient will respond to the drugs. 

The research conducted between the UK and colleagues in the US emphasises the fight against breast cancer taking place at the international level, bringing together all unique skills and resources to generate positive findings.  

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This is the first gene of its kind to be discovered in breast cancer for five years. This is exciting because it’s a prime candidate for the development of new breast cancer drugs designed specifically to target tumours in which this gene is overactive. Hopefully this will lead to more effective cancer treatments in the future.”

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