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U of T researchers part of team to discover variants that predispose to breast cancer

By Michelle Rosen

OCTOBER 25, 2017

Excerpt from U of T News
Writer: Jovana Drinjakovic

University of Toronto researchers have helped identify 72 new genetic variants that contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer as part of a major international collaboration involving hundreds of researchers worldwide.

The studies, reported today in the journals Nature and Nature Genetics, identified 72 common variants that predispose to breast cancer. Among these genetic regions, some are specifically associated with either estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) or estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer – the subset of cases that do not respond to hormonal therapies, such as the drug tamoxifen.

The findings are the result of work by the OncoArray Consortium, a huge endeavour involving 550 researchers from about 300 different institutions in six continents. In total, they analyzed genetic data from 275,000 women, of whom 146,000 had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“These new variants substantially expand the number of genes and pathways that are involved in breast cancer development, and these represent multiple new avenues of research to learn how to treat breast cancer,” says Gary Bader, a professor at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and the department of molecular genetics, whose research group was among five U of T teams involved in the study.

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Photo courtesy of Canadian Foundation for Innovation