Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Breast Cancer Briefs

A federal judge in New York has revoked seven patents involving human gene mutations linked to breast cancer.

Judge Robert Sweet concluded that the patents should not have been issued because they involve products of nature and not human action.

The patents involve mutations in genes BRCA1 AND BRCA2 and are held by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah.

Attorneys for Myriad Genetics asked that the case be thrown out and argued that the expertise and effort to isolate the DNA justified the granting of the patents.

However, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that genes alone do not predict who is likely to develop a cancerous breast tumor.

Unlike the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which are rare, the researchers studied 10 mutations commonly found in 20-40% of the population.

In a study involving over 11,000 women, researchers discovered that testing for these mutations was no better for screening than asking questions involving traditional risk factors of family history, age of fertility, and age when a first child was born.

A doctor’s ability to predict a tumor improved only when genetic testing was combined with questions about these traditional risk factors.

And while the rare mutation of BRCA1 greatly boosts a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, the key to lowering her cancer risk may be the deactivation of another gene.

Researchers report that they’ve been able to lower the risk of cancerous tumors in mice by deactivating a gene known as 53BP1.

The mice had a mutated BRCA1 gene, which boosted their chances of developing breast cancer just as it does in humans.

From AFP, Reuters, and HealthDay News respectively

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