A group of researchers from the The Cancer Reasearch Institute in London have discovered a new gene, which is believed to increase the risk of breast cancer in male patients by 50 per cent.
Dr Nick Orr, leader at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London and his team observed the genetic codes of over 800 male patients with breast cancer. The study, one of the largest in the world, has revealed a link between mutations in one, particular gene and the debut of breast cancer in male patients. This discovery could help scientists develop new treatments for male patients with breast cancer.
Very little is known about the appearance of breast cancer in men because of the rareness of the disease. It is found more often in men with ages between 60 and 70, who were exposed to radiation or have a family history of breast cancer. Furthermore, male patients with high estrogen levels , who suffer from diseases like cirrhosis or Klinefelter’s syndrome are more likely to develop breast cancer than healthy patients.
Symptoms of breast cancer in men are very similar to those in women. The most common include lumps, changes of the nipple or breast skin and discharges of fluids from the nipple. The treatment is usually a mastectomy, followed by radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.
The causes of breast cancer in males are yet to be found. Previous studies have shown that BRCA2 genes are responsible for more than 10 per cent of breast cancer cases. Furthermore, researchers have now discovered that besides BRCA2 genes, RAD51B genes, which are accountable for breast cancer in women patients, also play a major role in developing this disease men.
Dr Nick Orr, said that this study will help scientists develop new treatments for breast cancer patients. Moreover, it will help doctors anticipate if a patient is at risk of developing the disease later in life, based on a genetic investigation which will determine whether they have the cancer genes or not.
Dr Orr also said that a better understanding of the disease will come after finding more male patients with breast cancer genes. Additionally, researchers are very hopeful that these findings will lead to more information about how the disease works in women also.
The next step and the ultimate goal for the international research team is finding a way to prevent the disease, but the there is a long journey ahead of them, said Dr. Mikael Hartman, co-author at this study. To get there, they will have to find hundreds of cancer markers and genes which can be held responsible for the appearance of the disease. After identifying those markers, a personalized treatment, based on each patients’ genetic makeup could be developed.