Researchers have identified a gene that increases the risk of getting cancer. Investigators say this discovery could allow people to know in advance if they are at an increased risk for cancer and to take precautionary measures.
The gene, called the Transforming Growth Factor Beta Receptor 1*6A (TGFBR1*6A), is present in nearly one in eight people. Researchers from Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Cancer Genetics Program analyzed published studies to conclude that this gene is associated with cancer. Researchers say TGFBR1*6A may be to blame for 7 percent of all breast cancers, 11 percent of all ovarian cancers, and 5.5 percent of all colon cancers. "These findings should put TGFBR1*6A on the map with better known cancer susceptibility genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that have been implicated in an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast and ovarian cancers," says Boris Pesche, M.D., Ph.D., from Northwestern's Cancer Genetics Program.
Authors of the study say this gene may be the most common inherited cancer susceptibility gene identified so far. Overall researchers say having this gene increases your cancer risk by 26 percent. Genetic counselors say being able to identify genes that could increase your risk of cancer can help you take steps to prevent cancer. These steps include preventive drug therapy, increased screenings, lifestyle changes, or preventive surgery.
Testing for this gene is only offered as part of a research study at Northwestern, but study authors predict testing for TGFBR1*6A could become more widely available in the near future. Study authors say the goal is to be able to identify high-risk individuals based on their genes and prevent many cases of cancer.