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Breast cancer treatment could improve with gene discovery

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New treatments for breast cancer could be developed after scientists found how a gene plays a vital part in finding whether a patient will respond to tamoxifen treatment.

The discovery could mean scientists will be able to “switch off” the action of the FGFR1 gene, enabling the drug tamoxifen to work more effectively. Hormone sensitive breast cancer sufferers can build resistance to tamoxifen with too much presence of the FGFR1 gene. Women with hormone sensitive breast cancer are commonly given tamoxifen which interferes with the activity of the female hormone oestrogen.

About 28,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year and thousands receive tamoxifen for five years after an initial round of treatment or surgery. However, not all women respond to the drug and it is estimated that only around two-thirds actually benefit.

Around 4,500 breast cancers diagnosed each year are thought to show too much activity of the FGFR1 gene.

The study was led by a team from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). They found that when the FGFR1 gene is turned on too much it causes resistance to tamoxifen and other hormone treatments.

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