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Breast Cancer Health Center

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New Gene Linked to Breast Cancer Risk

HMMR Gene Interacts With Other Breast Cancer Genes, Boosts Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 8, 2007 -- A new gene may play a role in women’s breast cancer risk, according to a new study.

Researchers found that a mutation of the new gene, known as HMMR, interacts with the previously identified breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Their results showed women over 40 with the HMMR mutation were nearly three times as likely to develop breast cancer than women without this genetic variation, even after accounting for the two other breast cancer genes.

“If we can identify variations of genes that are more common in the population that increase breast cancer risk, then targeting that gene for early detection or treatment will have a greater impact,” says researcher Kristen Stevens, MPH, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in a news release.

New Breast Cancer Gene

In the study, published in Nature Genetics, researchers used computerized models to examine the role of several genes potentially implicated in breast cancer. Then they looked at how these genes interacted with each other, and the gene HMMR emerged as a new player in breast cancer.

Next, researchers studied how variations in the HMMR gene increased breast cancer risk in a group of 923 Jewish Israeli women with breast cancer and similar women without breast cancer.

The results showed that women younger than 40 with a mutation in the HMMR gene had a 2.7 times higher risk of breast cancer than those without the genetic variation. Women 40 years old with a mutation were 22% more likely to develop breast cancer.

Researchers also confirmed these results in nearly 2,500 women with breast cancer and nearly 2,000 healthy women.

Women with the HMMR mutation were also diagnosed with breast cancer an average of 12 months earlier than other women, suggesting that the gene may be involved in early-onset breast cancer.

Finally, the study showed that HMMR interacts with the breast cancer gene BRCA1, and alterations in either gene caused genetic instability and interfered with cell division, which researchers say could be a path to breast cancer development.

They say targeting this pathway may also offer a new potential target for treating and detecting breast cancer.

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