Breast cancer gene does not boost risk of death

Henrietta Brewer
January 13, 2018

Susan M. Domchek, executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and a national leader on the OlympiAD trials, said: "Patients diagnosed with BRCA-related metastatic breast cancer are often younger than other breast cancer patients, and their disease is often much more aggressive and hard to treat".

The research, led by the University of Southampton, concludes that BRCA-mutated breast cancer is no more unsafe or aggressive than any other form of the disease.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first treatment for advanced breast cancer caused by inherited mutations in BRCA genes.


While it put women at an increased risk of developing breast cancer, the faulty gene did not mean they were less likely to survive.

The study, published in The Lancet Oncology, found 12% of 2,733 women aged 18 to 40 treated for breast cancer at 127 hospitals across the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2008 had a BRCA mutation.

"In light of their findings the authors suggest that women with triple-negative breast cancer and a BRCA mutation who choose to delay additional surgery for 1-2 years to recover from their initial treatment should be reassured that this is unlikely to affect their long-term survival", the statement said. Few studies have looked at whether these genes are linked with lower survival in young breast cancer patients, which this research aimed to address.


The drug has been on the market since 2014 for ovarian cancer, and is the first in a new class of medicines called PARP inhibitors to be approved for breast cancer. The hope is that by blocking the fix of cancer cells, the cells will die and slow or stop tumor growth, the FDA said in a news release Friday. "Our findings suggest that this surgery does not have to be immediately undertaken along with the other treatment".

Twelve percent of patients had either a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. The primary outcome was overall survival for all BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations carriers compared with all non-carriers at 2, 5, and 10 years post-diagnosis.

Women who carry a risky cancer gene have the same survival chances as other women with breast tumours, researchers have found.


'In the longer term, risk-reducing surgery should be discussed as an option for BRCA1 mutation carriers in particular, to minimise their future risk of developing a new breast or ovarian cancer. About 12 percent of all women will develop breast cancer during their lives. BRCA-related breast cancer often strikes younger people and is harder to treat than other breast cancers. Dave Fredrickson, Executive Vice President, Head of the Oncology Business Unit, AstraZeneca, recognizes the importance of the news: "This is significant for breast cancer patients, as the identification of BRCA status, in addition to hormone receptor and HER2 status, becomes a potentially critical step in the management of their disease".

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