Gene that repairs DNA may cause breast cancer

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JULY 21, 2014, ATLANTA Dr. MIchael Cohen looks at 3D imaging of breast scans at Emory's Winship Cancer Institute Monday, July 21, 2014. LIZ EDITS //A new technology now at several Emory University hospitals will cut back on the stressful false positives that many women get with mammograms.The technology takes a 3D image on the breast and the image is apparently so good that it will detect some cancers earlier. These are cancers that might be missed during a traditional mammogram. Doctors said the technology is a giant step forward for women and in the fight against breast cancer. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

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A gene that can repair DNA may also cause breast cancer when it mutates, new research shows.

Stem, or progenitor cells, that should be making healthy breast tissue can have mutations of the GT198 gene. Those mutations then prompt the progenitor cells to instead feed the creation of tumors, according to a new study by researchers at Augusta University.

The researchers plan to use their findings to explore new treatments that target the misguided progenitor cells, instead of only targeting the cancerous breast tissue they produce, said Dr. Lan Ko, a cancer biologist at the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.

“We think the way to treat breast cancer is to target the progenitor cells,” said Ko, the study’s senior author. “We want to kill these cells that are feeding the tumor rather than just killing the tumor cells, which is less effective.”

Mutations of the GT198 gene can be found in early onset breast and ovarian cancers. The gene has strong  potential as a way to diagnose breast cancer early and as a new target for treatment, Ko said.

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