Unravelling breast cancer susceptibility

Aug 01, 2008
Human Chromosomes under the microscope. Human blood-cell chromosomes with damage (shown by arrows) caused by low-dose radiation. The number of these ´breaks´ is increased in exposed blood cells from breast cancer cases.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at St Andrews University's Bute Medical School are investigating a vital link between radiation sensitivity and breast cancer susceptibility.

The study sheds new light on a vital enzyme that enables cells in our bodies to 'unravel' DNA. This enzyme allows the chromosomes to split into two prior to a cell dividing and could be linked to breast cancer susceptibility.

Using a model human cell system in which cells are grown in cultures in the laboratory, researchers have shown that when amounts of the enzyme 'topo-2' are reduced, the cells become resistant to low doses of gamma-rays and less damage to their chromosomes is observed.

Dr Peter Bryant of the Bute Medical School is heading the team. He said, "I believe that these findings could help explain individual susceptibility to sporadic (non-familial) breast cancer, since previous work in the Medical School has demonstrated an on-average higher radiation sensitivity of chromosomes to damage among white blood cells from breast cancer patients, when compared with groups of normal (non-cancer) patients."

Several studies by scientists in Manchester, Athens and Ghent have found a similar link between breast cancer and elevated chromosome radiation sensitivity, and while the underlying mechanism of the link is not yet understood, it is thought that changes in 'low-penetrance' genes could be involved in causing both the radiation sensitivity and breast cancer susceptibility.

The group in the Bute Medical School, including Professor Andrew Riches, PhD student Samantha Terry and technician Olga Shovman, in collaboration with Dr Dougal Adamson at Ninewells Hospital, is currently studying the levels of topo-2 and the effects of low-dose radiation on chromosomes of cells in culture in the laboratory and in white blood cells in samples taken from breast cancer cases.

Dr Bryant said, "The original aim of the laboratory cell culture work was to test a theory as to the way in which low-dose radiation causes damage to our chromosomes. Our published findings support the theory, and suggested a possible way in which this exciting result might help lead us in our ongoing study of patients, to understand more about breast cancer susceptibility."

The research is published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Cancer and is funded by the Breast Cancer Campaign and the Scottish Government.

Provided by St Andrews University

Explore further: Study reveals a cause of poorer outcomes for African-American patients with breast cancer

Related Stories

Forming school networks to educate 'the new mainstream'

13 minutes ago

As immigration increases the number of non-English speaking "culturally and linguistically diverse" students, schools will need to band together in networks focused on the challenges of educating what has been called "the ...

Aphrodisiac for fish and frogs discovered

23 minutes ago

A supplement simply added to water has been shown to boost reproduction in nematodes (roundworms), molluscs, fish and frogs – and researchers believe it could work for humans too.

Rare tidal movements expose Kimberley dinosaur tracks

24 minutes ago

While audiences in Perth attend Walking with Dinosaurs this weekend palaeontologists working near Broome will be documenting the extinct vertebrates' extensive fossilised footsteps using laser scanning technology.

Recommended for you

DNA blood test detects lung cancer mutations

Apr 17, 2015

Cancer DNA circulating in the bloodstream of lung cancer patients can provide doctors with vital mutation information that can help optimise treatment when tumour tissue is not available, an international group of researchers ...

Tumors prefer the easy way out

Apr 17, 2015

Tumor cells become lethal when they spread. Blocking this process can be a powerful way to stop cancer. Historically, scientists thought that tumor cells migrated by brute force, actively pushing through whatever ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
not rated yet Aug 02, 2008
Haven't you heard? Exposing the link between radiation and cancer is now a "No, No!"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.