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Scientists have called for a new drug to be developed, which can block a gene that multiplies the risk of breast cancer returning after treatment.
The researchers from Oxford University believe that blocking the newly discovered POLQ gene could increase the chances of beating the disease.
According to a study, the the POLQ gene multiplies the chances of breast cancer returning eight times.
The scientists based their study on data from 279 breast cancer patients who were diagnosed in the 1990s.
They found that where POLQ was evident in excessive amounts, the risk of the cancer returning after treatment increased dramatically.
The findings of the study were published in the online medical journal Oncotarget.
Professor Gillies McKenna, Director of the Cancer Research UK/MRC Gray Institute at Oxford University, where the research was conducted said: “As POLQ is not switched on by most healthy tissues it is possible that if drugs could be developed to block this gene, they would make tumours more responsive to treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy but not increase the side effects caused to healthy cells.
“Drugs that block POLQ may be able to reverse the very poor survival associated with over production of this gene.”
Scientists believe the gene may cause tumours to resist radiotherapy and other treatments used to tackle early breast cancer. It may also cause tumour cells to be more aggressive.
The gene appears to have a bigger impact in women who have cancers that are not sensitive to the hormone oestrogen. They account for between a fifth and a quarter of the 45,700 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
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