A new biomarker has been discovered which could help doctors diagnose patients who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. According to Science Magazine, the work was carried out by experts at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) and a number of other organisations, who have managed to find a new genetic biomarker within non-coding human DNA (DNA that does not transcribe into protein).
As part of the research, the team looked at the repetitive sequences of a specific microsatellite - repeating sequences of one to six base pairs of DNA. It was discovered that people with longer sequences of this microsatellite are more likely to be susceptible to developing breast cancer. The research has suggested that people with more than 13 copies of the repeat are three times more likely to be susceptible to the cancer than those who do not.
The research was carried out by a team which included Harold Garner, executive director of the VBI; Dr Michael Skinner, professor of paediatric surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre; and Dr James Mullet, radiologist at Carilion Clinic's Breast Care Centre.
More research now needs to be carried out to make this biomarker useful in a clinical setting. Dr Garner added that this type of research to create "robust biomarkers" which can be used to help identify diseases in the early stages, requires not only a large number of clinical samples, but also experts working across a range of disciplines, as well as the latest technology. However, the effort that goes into such work will hopefully lead to considerable benefits for people at risk of suffering from breast cancer.
Dr Garner said more work was now being done to take the results of the study and make the biomarker of use to doctors, to help inform them of patients' levels of susceptibility to breast cancer and the development of the disease. Apparently the development is likely to be of most use to people with a high-risk of developing breast cancer, and those with a family history of the disease.
Dr Michael Skinner suggested that this type of research could eventually lead to the development of a drug which would interact with the gene to "reduce expression levels to a normal range".
Cancer biomarkers are playing an increasingly important role in the world of medical research and it's hoped that as more effort is put into finding new biomarkers, better support will be available to cancer sufferers.