A new drug for genetic breast cancer is showing promise. A small study in the UK with the drug Olaparib, from pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, is showing promise in shrinking and stopping tumor growth.
Olaparib works by blocking a protein found in cancer cells with patients who have a BRCA-related breast cancer. What is very exciting is that the drug causes the cancer cells to die yet leaves healthy cells alone. This means the debilitating side effects of traditional chemotherapy would be drastically reduced.
Jews with an Ashkenazi heritage have a high incidence of BRCA related breast cancer. Those with the BRCA gene mutation have a 60% higher chance of getting breast cancer in their life time than those that do not carry the mutation. They also have a 60% increased risk of ovarian cancer. Up to 50% of people with the gene mutation do not have a family history of breast cancer largely because the gene can be carried by men who do not manifest the disease.
Andrew Tutt, the director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit at King’s College London, said preliminary results were “very promising”.
The drug has the potential as an early stage preventative treatment. Many women develop breast cancer not knowing they carry the gene. More studies are needed, but the general thought from the genetic breast cancer community is HOPE.
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