Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have identified two new genes that influence the risk of breast cancer.
The study was a collaboration between Associate Professors Juliet French and Stacey Edwards. The findings have been published in the prestigious American Journal of Human Genetics.
Associate Professor French said the genes, known as CUPID1 and CUPID2, affect the way cells respond to potentially cancer-causing DNA damage.
“When damage occurs to certain parts of our DNA, it can lead to cancer developing,” Associate Professor French said.
“That’s why our bodies have well-developed ways of constantly repairing damage to our DNA.
“We found that these two genes are involved in switching the mechanism by which cells repair DNA damage.
“If you have these genes, your cells will repair DNA damage without causing any errors.
“However, if you don’t have these genes, your cells will switch to repairing DNA in a way that is prone to errors, and can actually cause more damage.
“When this further damage occurs in a gene that causes cancer, it can lead to cancer developing.”
Associate Professor French said the finding could, in future, provide a new target for treating the most common type of breast cancer, estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.
“While it’s still a long way off, we hope that in future a new treatment could be developed that could target these genes and switch them on,” she said.
“CUPID1 and CUPID2 fall within new class of genes called long noncoding RNAs.
“Long noncoding RNAs are an under-studied class of genes that are likely to provide a wealth of opportunity for uncovering major breakthroughs for treating a range of diseases.”