Funding supports study of breast cancer gene mutation
A team of Queen’s University researchers has received $450,000 to study a gene mutation common to breast cancer patients. The three-year funding supports research aimed at developing an inexpensive diagnostic tool for identifying individuals with the gene mutation.
“In the long term, we hope to identify people early who are at risk of developing breast cancer – before they get cancer – so they have the best possible surveillance and treatment options,” says Scott Davey.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation funding will continue a collaborative project between Dr. Davey and Dr. Harriet Feilotter, both members of the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and the Cancer Research Institute.
The problem lies in BRCA1, a human tumor suppressor gene. Inheriting a damaged BRCA1 gene sets off a series of events that leads to an individual developing cancer. BRCA1 carriers develop tumors that present earlier and are more aggressive than other forms of breast cancer.
“In the first phase of the study, we were able to detect changes in gene expression patterns that distinguish people with BRCA1 mutations from those with no apparent mutation," says Dr. Davey. "The second round of funding will allow us to validate and extend this work, hopefully leading to both a better understanding of BRCA1 function, and an improved method for identifying individuals that carry the gene mutations.”
Using fresh blood cells from patients, the research team will try to nail down the actual function of BRCA1 to determine exactly how it inhibits cancer.