Scientists report breakthrough in cancer research


Scientists searching for new ways to treat breast cancer have discovered how an elusive gene can increase the risk of the disease, it was revealed today.

Experts from the Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre and the University of California San Francisco studied the Aurora2 gene, with the hope that it could lead to more targeted treatments.

They found that one version of the gene was less able to interact with other genes in a cell, meaning it was more likely that these cells became cancerous.

The results of their study are published in the latest edition of Nature Genetics.

Aurora2 is over-expressed in 16 per cent of all breast cancers, rising to 94 per cent in the most common form of breast cancer - invasive ductal adenocarcinoma.

Researchers hope that by finding how the gene works it will indicate who will or will not get breast cancer and let them develop targeted drugs for women with the high-risk version of the gene.

Dr Spiros Linardopoulos, head of Breakthrough's novel drug targeting team, said: "Although genes like Aurora2 carry a lower risk of causing breast cancer than well-known, high risk susceptibility genes like BRCA1 and 2, they may be a more common cause of cancer in the population."

Professor Alan Ashworth, director of the Breakthrough Research Centre, was a leading member of the team which discovered the BRCA2 gene in 1995.

He said: "Understanding more about the genes involved in breast cancer and the biology of the breast is fundamental to everything we do here at the centre and is essential if we are to find better diagnostic techniques and safer, targeted treatments for the 40,000 women and men diagnosed in the UK each year.

"The analysis of the role of Aurora2 is a significant and welcome step in that direction."