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Bone Genes and Breast Cancer

Researchers in Vienna, Austria and the University of Maryland who are working together on an international collaboration have found what appears to be a new route to preventing breast cancer. Their work shows that by blocking a genetic pathway to bone repair, a new drug may also prevent inherited breast cancer caused by the BRCA gene.

For several years, clinicians have used the antibody drug Denosumab to block a gene and its protein, collectively known as the RANKL/RANK system. The antibody prevents loss of bone in patients with various forms of cancer. This drug has very few side effects and is highly effective. The new research shows that mouse breast cells with BRCA mutation, when treated with this drug, were no longer susceptible to the development of breast cancers.

The international collaboration to develop the mouse model and accumulation of data resulted from a commitment of scientists across the globe to preventing breast cancer. Scientists from Austria, the United States, Canada and Spain all collaborated to complete the mouse study. The discovery of Denosomab’s benefit in breast cancer prevention further supports the growing evidence that drugs designed for one target or disease might also benefit another. Phase III trials will be conducted to confirm the efficacy of this new approach both in humans carrying BRCA 1 mutations and in other women with strong family histories of breast cancer but no identifiable inherited mutation.

(See: Sigi, V., Owusu-Boaltey, K., Penninger, J., et al 2016 RANKL/RANK control Brca1 mutation-driven mammary tumors. Cell Research)

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