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Fam Cancer. 2008;7(1):83-9. Epub 2007 Jul 12.

Hereditary breast cancer: pathobiology, clinical translation, and potential for targeted cancer therapeutics.

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  • 1Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA. wrubinstein@enh.org

Abstract

BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancers have distinct biological features as evidenced by histopathologic, immunohistochemical, gene expression profiling, and array-comparative genomic hybridization data. BRCA1 breast cancers may have a worse prognosis but may, however be amenable to treatment such as chemotherapy for small high-grade, lymph node negative breast cancers. Paradoxically, tamoxifen may provide effective adjuvant and chemopreventive therapy despite the predominantly negative estrogen receptor status of BRCA1 breast cancers. The distinctive biology of BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancers bodes well for the development of targeted cancer therapies. Cells with BRCA1 or BRCA2 loss of function are deficient in DNA double strand break repair and are sensitized to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors, causing the persistence of DNA lesions which are usually repaired by homologous recombination and ultimately leading to apoptosis. The potentially high efficacy and low toxicity of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors presents an opportunity for targeted cancer therapeutics for BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutation carriers. Genotype-tailored chemoprevention may be feasible which could theoretically eliminate single cells that have sustained a second hit, before cancer progression takes place. If targeted cancer therapies emerge, it will become crucially important to identify BRCA carriers at the time of diagnosis for optimal therapy and to identify unaffected carriers for chemoprevention. If so, then to the extent that barriers in the recognition and referral of patients to genetic counseling cannot be surmounted, pathological and genomic methods to identify a BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer profile will gain increasing clinical importance.

PMID:
17624601
DOI:
10.1007/s10689-007-9147-7
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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