Cancer caused by BRCA gene less risky than thought

Endpoints News

Young women diagnosed with breast cancer who carry a BRCA mutation have the same chances of survival as women without the mutation after undergoing treatment.

"This important topic needs more prospective research as preventive surgical measures might have an effect on what might be a very long life after a diagnosis of breast cancer at a young age", wrote Peter Fasching, MD, of Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, in an editorial published with the study.

BRCA mutations occur in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and are inherited. Between 45 percent and 90 percent of women with a BRCA mutation develop breast cancer, compared with about 12.5 percent of women in the general population.

It suggests that although women diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age tend to have a poorer outlook, those who have BRCA gene faults aren't less likely to survive.

Women under the age of 40 with breast cancer have the same chances of survival whether or not they've been diagnosed with a BRCA gene mutation, new research suggests.


"In view of this, younger women with breast cancer can take time to discuss whether radical breast surgery is the right choice for them as part of a longer-term risk reducing strategy", said Fiona MacNeill, a breast surgeon at The Royal Marsden National Health System Foundation Trust in Britain, which was not involved in the study. This was true at 2, 5 and 10 years following diagnosis.

The study found that there was no difference in overall survival two, five or 10 years after diagnosis for women with or without a BRCA mutation.

She said she was now keen to understand how women fared more than 10 years after their diagnosis.

"Decisions about timing of additional surgery to reduce future cancer risks should take into account patient prognosis after their first cancer, and their personal preferences", she added. "It is the first time any drug has been approved to treat certain patients with metastatic breast cancer who have a "BRCA" gene mutation", the agency said in a statement released to the media.

The team tracked the women's medical records for an average period of just over eight years, and found that 651 of 678 total deaths were due to breast cancer. The drug was linked with tumor shrinkage in 60% of the patients with germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations taking the drug, compared to 29% in the chemo group. For women with a mutation whose breast tumors were also triple-negative-which refers to the lack of three specific characteristics seen in a breast tumor-their odds of long-term survival was the same, too. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the agency was expanding its approval for a drug called Lynparza to treat breast cancer in people who were BRCA carriers.

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