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Mutated gene substantially boosts risk of several cancers

September 15, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange

A cancer susceptibility gene that is present in about one in eight people may increase the risk of cancer by 26%, researchers have discovered.

The gene -- known as TGFBR1, for transforming growth factor beta receptor -- normally inhibits cell growth, but when it is altered or mutated, cells grow out of control, causing several cancers, including cancer of the colon, breast and ovary. Those who inherit the mutated gene, TGFBR1*6A, from both parents have a cancer risk that is 150% greater than the general population, according to the senior author of the study, Dr. Boris Pasche.

Pasche and his colleagues at Northwestern University's Cancer Genetics Program combined data from seven studies of the gene, involving 1,846 healthy people and 2,438 people with cancer. They found that the gene mutation appeared in one in six people with cancer. "Some families may have more people with the gene [mutation] than others," says Pasche, "and it may account for a proportion of familial cancers." Pasche predicts that a test for the genetic mutation will be available in the near future if additional studies confirm the findings.

The study was published in the Aug. 28 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Dianne Partie Lange

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