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Breast Cancer Res. 1999;1(1):41-7. Epub 1999 Oct 27.

The pathology of familial breast cancer: How do the functions of BRCA1 and BRCA2 relate to breast tumour pathology?

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  • 1The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre, The Institute of Cancer Research, Fulham Road, London SW3 6JB, UK.


Women with mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Both BRCA1 and BRCA2 are thought to be tumour suppressor genes since the wild type alleles of these genes are lost in tumours from heterozygous carriers. Several functions have been proposed for the proteins encoded by these genes which could explain their roles in tumour suppression. Both BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been suggested to have a role in transcriptional regulation and several potential BRCA1 target genes have been identified. The nature of these genes suggests that loss of BRCA1 could lead to inappropriate proliferation, consistent with the high mitotic grade of BRCA1-associated tumours. BRCA1 and BRCA2 have also been implicated in DNA repair and regulation of centrosome number. Loss of either of these functions would be expected to lead to chromosomal instability, which is observed in BRCA1 and BRCA2-associated tumours. Taken together, these studies give an insight into the pathogenesis of BRCA-associated tumours and will inform future therapeutic strategies.

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