New study shows potential for breast cancer prevention in high-risk patients

21 June 2016

A new study has shown how an existing type of medication has the potential to help prevent breast cancer in women who are at high risk of the disease.

Led by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the research has indicated that denosumab could be effective in stopping the cancer from developing in patients with a faulty BRCA1 gene, who are known to be at high risk of developing aggressive breast cancer.

Using samples of breast tissue donated by women carrying this genetic fault, the team pinpointed the exact cells that give rise to breast cancer, finding they could be identified by a marker protein called RANK.

Denosumab is an approved treatment for osteoporosis and breast cancer that has spread to the bone, which functions by inhibiting the RANK signalling pathway. This study indicated that RANK inhibition can switch off cell growth that leads to breast cancer development.

Though further studies are needed to confirm this, the use of this drug could prove to be a viable alternative to the surgical removal of breast tissue, an option that many women at high risk of cancer currently choose.

Study leader Professor Jane Visvader said: "It is very exciting to think that we may be on the path to the 'holy grail' of cancer research, devising a way to prevent this type of breast cancer in women at high genetic risk."

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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