Research NewsCancer Research

Possible Function Found for Breast Cancer Genes

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Science  25 Apr 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5312, pp. 531-532
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5312.531

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Two of the most mysterious actors in cancer genetics may finally be sharing their secrets: the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. The genes, which cause cancer in up to 80% of women who carry mutated forms, had been thought to be tumor suppressors, which normally hold cell growth in check and lead to the uncontrolled growth of cancer when they are mutated. But results in the 24 April issue of Nature, combined with earlier findings, suggest that the genes' normal role is to help cells repair damaged DNA. Disrupting the genes might lead to cancer by allowing cells to accumulate other mutations, including those that foster cancer development.