New study: Drug may prevent cancer in women with BRCA1 gene


New study: Drug may prevent cancer in women with BRCA1 gene

New research by Nature Medicine has found an existing drug may prevent breast cancer in the estimated one in 400 women carrying the faulty BRCA1 gene.

The team, led by Australian researchers, has found injections of an inhibitor reduced the proliferation of pre-cancerous cells in BRCA1 breast tissue in mice and three Melbourne women carrying the gene mutation.

It could mean cancer prevention for the high risk group of carriers would be reduced to a handful of injections.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers used healthy breast tissue before undergoing surgery to pinpoint cells that give rise to breast cancer in faulty BRCA1 genes. They discovered these rogue cells could be identified by a marker protein called RANK, a breakthrough that turned their studies towards an existing drug called Denosumab.

Denosumab is used as an inhibitor of RANK in osteoporosis and breast cancer that has moved to the bone. When they used the drug on the donated breast tissue, the pre-cancerous rogue cells stopped dividing, or were "switched off".

Further tests of the inhibitor on BRCA1 mice found two thirds of them did not go on to develop tumours.

Now, the first international human trial is expected to begin within two years.

One in eight women will get breast cancer, and for women aged 50-74, a breast screen once every two years is the best way of monitoring for any change in breast tissue before any symptoms are noticed and when treatment is likely to be most successful. Appointments with BreastScreen Victoria can be made online at breastscreen.org.au or by calling 13 20 50.

The Nature Medicine research can be found here.