Scientists have discovered a class of drugs that can destroy cancers related to the mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Clinical trials of the drug in patients will begin later this year.
About one in 200 people has a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Those mutations increase the risk of breast, ovarian, pancreas, and prostate cancers.
Scientists have found a class of drugs known as POLQ inhibitors that kill cancer cells with BRCA mutations without harming healthy cells, writes the journal Nature Communications.
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This mutation is often called the ‘Angelina Jolie gene’ because the actress underwent a prophylactic mastectomy in 2013 after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation.
The significance of the discovery lies in the fact that cancers caused by mutations in this gene are treated so far in two ways:
- with chemotherapy;
- with PARP inhibitor drugs that only work in ovarian cancer patients.
Therefore, the new drugs, POLQ inhibitors, may become a hope to save other patients. These drugs prevent cancer cells from regenerating themselves without affecting healthy cells.
However, scientists have yet to prove that the drug in tablet form works in the human body.
Christopher J. Lord, professor of cancer genomics at the London Cancer Research Institute, explained that people with defects in the BRCA gene are at risk of developing cancer because their cells cannot repair damaged DNA. So, abnormal cells develop and then turn into tumors.
“All cells must repair their DNA damage to stay healthy, or the mutations will accumulate and end up killing them. We have identified a new class of drugs that deprive cancerous tumors of their ability to repair their DNA. This new type of treatment it could be potentially effective against cancers that already have problems repairing their DNA due to defects in the BRCA gene,” said the scientist.
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