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Drug hope follows gene discovery


Scientists believe a promising new class of drugs may prove effective treatment for both breast and prostate cancer, as research has suggested the two diseases could be opposite sides of the same coin.

Both hereditary diseases may develop the same way in men and women with a faulty BRCA2 gene, scientists have discovered.

It is understood that the gene, which is involved in DNA repair, plays a role in prostate, ovarian and breast cancers.

Researchers funded by the Cancer Research UK charity pinpointed cancer-causing DNA defects in male mice genetically engineered to lack BRCA2 in their prostate glands.

Prostate cells from the “knockout” mice accumulated DNA damage faster than it could be repaired.

Over time, the disrupted DNA was expected to lead to powerful anti-tumour genes being damaged, triggering cancer.

The same process involving BRCA2 can lead to hereditary breast cancer in women.

The research was reported today in the online journal Public Library of Science Genetics.

Study leader Dr Amanda Swain, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London and Sutton, Surrey, said: “This sheds light on the relationship between the two conditions and could help highlight overlapping areas where similar treatments could be used to treat both.”

The research builds on studies of a promising new class of drugs for BRCA2 – linked breast cancers known as PARP inhibitors.

Scientists now believe the drugs may prove effective treatments for both breast and prostate cancer.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’ve made great progress in developing drugs for hereditary breast cancer – particularly in targeting cancers caused by specific faulty genes through drugs like PARP inhibitors. It would be fantastic if these drugs could ‘multi-task’ and treat prostate cancer too.”

Copyright Press Association 2010

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