A team led by Angela Cox of Sheffield University Medical School in the UK recently published in Nature Genetics the discovery of a gene that appears to decrease the chance of getting breast cancer in women of European descent by around 13%. The utilized data collected from 14 studies involving around 33,000 women. The gene is called CASP8 and is a member of the cysteine-aspartic acid protease family of genes also known as caspases. Caspases are involved in apoptosis, which is the programmed death of certain cells. Many cancers involve mutations in genes that are involved with apoptosis resulting in cancerous cells remaining alive despite having mutations that should have resulted in their dying through apoptosis.
Recently the FDA approved a test that can help predict whether or not women who have had breast cancer before are likely to have it return. The test is called MammaPrint and uses a sample from the person’s breast cancer. DNA from the sample is then analyzed and the activity of about 70 different genes are measured.
A report in Cancer finds that some newer breast cancer drugs called aromatase inhibitors are safer and have less side effects than tamoxifen and their users tend to live longer. They only for women who are post-menopausal however. Aromatase inhibitors block the activity of the enzyme aromatase thereby preventing the conversion of androgens into estrogens.
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