April 29, 1996
29 Apr 1996: Duke-NIEHS Team Links BRCA2 to Pancreatic Cancer; Evidence Suggests Still a Third Breast Cancer Gene
Mutations in BRCA2, the second breast cancer gene to be identified,may not be involved in as many inherited cases of breast cancer as first thought-but may have a role in some pancreatic cancers,according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Their study of 49 families with strong histories of breast cancerwas reported today in the May issue of the journal Nature Genetics.Their findings, the researchers said, may leave room for a thirdsignificant breast cancer gene -- and perhaps more. Most of the 49 families studied are Canadian and all had family members beingtreated by Canadian physicians who collaborated in the research.
Mutations of the first breast cancer gene identified, BRCA1, appearto account for about half of the 5-10 percent of breast cancersthat run in families. The gene was identified in 1994 by scientistsat NIEHS, the University of Utah and Myriad Genetics. Mutationsof the second breast cancer gene, BRCA2, identified just lastDecember by an international collaboration that included researchersat Duke and NIEHS, was initially believed to be involved in mostof the rest of familial breast cancer.
However, senior author and principal investigator Andrew Futrealof Duke, where the current study was initiated, and lead authorsCatherine M. Phelan of Duke and the Montreal General HospitalResearch Institute, Canada, and Johnathan M. Lancaster, a researchfellow at NIEHS, reported that their new results suggest thatthe "breast cancer families attributable to BRCA2 may beoverestimated."
- NIEHS' Dr. Lancaster said, "This gives us the excitingprospect that other breast cancer susceptibility genes await discovery."
The 49 families studied were those with patterns of inheritedbreast cancer that are unlikely to be due to mutations in BRCA1.Thus, they were expected to have a large number of mutations ofBRCA2. However, only eight BRCA2 mutations were found.
The study confirmed a significant risk of male breast cancer inmembers of BRCA2 mutated families. Half of the eight familieswith BRCA2 mutations also had members with pancreatic cancer atyoung ages-a strong suggestion that they may be associated. Prostatecancer was also present in two of the eight families with mutationscompared to only three of the 41 families without mutations.
Futreal was a part of the NIEHS team that identified BRCA1 andsubsequently got his own lab at Duke Medical. He, at Duke, andLancaster, at NIEHS, were also part of the international teamthat identified BRCA2.
Additional authors of the current paper are Patricia Tonin, MontrealGeneral; Curtis Gumbs, Duke; Charles Cochran, NIEHS; Ron Carter,McMaster University Medical Center, Hamilton, Ontario; ParvizGhadirian and Chantal Perret, Research Center, Hotel Dieu de Montreal;Roxana Moslehi, University of British Columbia; France Dion, Marie-ClaudeFaucher, Kiran Dole, Sepideh Karimi and William Foulkes, all ofMontreal General Hospital Research Institute; Hafida Lounis, Institutdu Cancer de Montreal; Ellen Warner, Sunnybrook Regional CancerCenter, Toronto; Paul Goss, Toronto Hospital; David Anderson,M.D. Anderson Hospital, Houston, Texas; Catharina Larsson of theKarolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, and Steven A. Narod, WomensCollege Hospital, Toronto.
An institute of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.,the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has itsown 509-acre campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C. NIEHS scientistsfrequently collaborate with those at nearby Duke University interestedin the varying susceptibility of humans to environment-linkeddiseases. Some mutations of genes can be caused by chemicals,radiation and other environmental factors.
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