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Global effort to uncover more cancer genes

Researchers have discovered five new possible genetic links in breast cancer development, after pooling together data from more than 20 groups around the world conducting research into the disease.

Early findings suggest that changes in four of the five genes slightly increased the risk of breast cancer, whereas one has been associated with a reduced risk – a total of 16 genes were studied involving research groups from Europe, Asia, North America and Australia.

These are the first published results from a series of collaborative studies, and heading Australia’s part in this global effort are scientists from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) and the University of Melbourne.

QIMR cancer epidemiologist, Dr Amanda Spurdle, says with more data made available by collaborating, researchers can further study the specific roles these five genes play as well as look into other candidate genes.

“By conducting large studies such as this, we can determine which genes are actually involved in breast cancer development and rule out others with a greater deal of confidence,” Dr Spurdle said.

“Knowing both are equally important for furthering our knowledge, as this narrows down where we should be investing our research efforts.”

The pooling of data has greatly helped to clarify the genetic links with breast cancer, where stand-alone studies previously failed to yield substantial results.

The findings have been published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.