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Northwestern's Cancer Genetics Program pinpoints gene that increases cancer risk by 26 percent

CHICAGO A gene present in nearly one in eight people is the most commonly inherited cancer susceptibility gene identified so far, increasing cancer risk in carriers by 26 percent, according to a study published by researchers at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital in today's Journal of Clinical Oncology. More common than the BRCA gene mutations, Transforming Growth Factor Beta Receptor 1*6A (TGFBR1*6A) may increase risk of breast cancer by 48 percent, ovarian cancer by 53 percent, and colon cancer by 38 percent.

"This is an exciting finding because TGFBR1*6A is a common gene that may cause a large number of cancers. In the near future, it will be commonplace for people to know what genes make them more susceptible to cancer, and we'll have many more options for preventing those cancers," says Boris Pasche, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., director of Northwestern's Cancer Genetics Program, assistant professor of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine and a researcher at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Researchers analyzed seven published studies and pooled those results to conclude that the TGFRB1*6A gene may be to blame for approximately 7 percent of all breast cancers, nearly 11 percent of all ovarian cancers and 5.5 percent of all colon cancers, across a variety of ethnic groups. "These findings should put TGFBR1*6A on the map with better known cancer susceptibility genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that have been implicated in an estimated 5 to 10 percent of all breast and ovarian cancers," said Dr. Pasche.

Altered genes trigger all cancer. "Most cases of breast, ovarian and colon cancers are caused by damage to the genes that builds up over a lifetime, but some people are born with a high risk of the disease," explains Pasche. "When inherited, the TGFRB1*6A gene makes people susceptible to having certain cells grow and divide uncontrollably, which may contribute to cancer development."


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Contact: Amanda Widtfeldt
awidtfel@nmh.org
312-926-2955
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
28-Aug-2003


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