Friday, June 15, 2007

A leading medical officer has found that genetic make-up puts Irish women at risk of cancer

John Fallon:

Professor Michael Kerin, Director of the National Breast Cancer Research Institute (NBCRI), says that specific elements in the genetic profile of Irish women leave them predisposed to certain breast cancers.

Professor Michael Kerin said researchers at the Galway-based institute have been looking at the genetic profile of 1,000 Irish women with breast cancer. They have been comparing it with the genetic profile of a similar number of older Irish women who never had breast cancer. Both profiles are then compared to international studies, with a view to identifying specific areas that leave Irish women more predisposed to certain breast cancers.

Although the study is yet to be completed, early indications are that its findings will be significant.

"In our own assessment of the situation, we have found individual changes in the Irish population that are related to breast cancer," said Professor Kerin.

"What we've done is we've targeted individual areas that are likely to prove responsive and we have identified specific issues in the Irish population in relation to that which corroborate some other work that's being done internationally," he added.

Prof. Kerin said they were looking at specific areas of the genome - the complete DNA sequence of one set of chromosomes - when making comparisons.

He said the major issue now in terms of breast cancer treatment is to individualise therapies.

"We now know that there are very many different types of breast cancer. There are at least six different types based on the genetic profile and one of the key issues now is to target and individualise therapies for women based on the kind of breast cancer they have.

"In an effort to individualise treatment, what we are doing is we are growing some cells from individual people's breast cancer in the laboratory to address what individual therapies they respond to," he said.

Up to 2,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Ireland each year. As yet, breast cancer cannot be prevented; its incidence can only be reduced by early detection. The cause and mechanism of action of breast cancer remain unknown.

The National Breast Cancer Research Institute which was launched in 1991, is a voluntary based charity located at the Clinical Science Institute, University College Hospital, Galway.



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