A new US study has revealed that a gene called TGFBR1-6A could be involved in up to 16 per cent of all cases of cancer. Scientists at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago have pooled the results of seven previous studies, and found that people who inherit a shortened version of the gene have a 26 per cent increased risk of developing cancer. Those who inherit two versions could have up to a 50 per cent increased risk, say the team, who published their results in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The gene makes a protein called transforming growth factor beta receptor 1-6A, which in turn appears to stop cells from growing in an uncontrolled way. But once a cell becomes cancerous, the shortened version seems to make it even more malignant, says study author Virginia Kaklamani. The researchers concluded that the altered gene could trigger up to seven per cent of breast cancers, 11 per cent of ovarian cancers and 5.5 per cent of all colon cancers.
The scientists hope that their findings could eventually lead to screening tests, to identify individuals at high risk of cancer. 'In the near future, it will be commonplace for people to know what genes make them susceptible to cancer, and we'll have many more options for preventing those cancers' said team leader Boris Pasche.