Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Treatment For Those at High Risk of Breast, Ovarian Cancer

News Brief by Kanika Kamal

Exciting new discoveries at the Queen’s University Belfast have brought new hope for women who are at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The mutation, BRCA1, is a mutation in DNA that makes women susceptible to developing breast and ovarian cancer. In fact, one in 1,000 women in the U.K. carries this mutation, along with Angelina Jolie who underwent a double mastectomy to prevent these cancers. The BRCA1 mutation gives women an 85 percent risk of developing breast cancer and a 40 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer. For this reason, the most popular preventative measure to take was a mastectomy and oophorectomy to remove the breasts and ovaries, respectively. However, with the newfound knowledge from Queen’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB), these invasive surgeries could be a thing of the past.

Although it has been highly suspected for years, the CCRCB has proven that there is a direct link between high estrogen levels and the development breast and ovarian cancer. This is because high levels of estrogen can cause DNA damage, and subsequently cancer. BRCA1 cells cannot effectively counteract high levels of estrogen in the breasts and ovaries, where estrogen is the highest, and therefore the DNA of those cells can get damaged and begin replicating out of control, therefore causing cancer. The good news for many women carrying the BRCA1 mutation is that simple drugs which reduce estrogen production can be used as preventative measures instead of surgeries. This means that many women with the BRCA1 mutation can keep the opportunity to have children, as their ovaries will not have to be removed. To top it off, the drugs reducing estrogen production are already available to the public. The CCRCB will soon be launching clinical trials to test combinations of drugs on women with the BRCA1 mutation, continuing to make incredible advances in breast and ovarian cancer research.

Queen's University Belfast. (2014, March 27). New treatment for those at high risk of breast, ovarian cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 6, 2014 from
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