Scientists work out how BRCA2 causes Cancer

A faulty BRCA2 gene can increase the risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.


Open quotesBRCA2 has eight Velcro-like strips, each of which attaches to Rad51 using a multitude of tiny molecular hooksClose quotes

Now in Nature (Vol 420 (6913)) scientists record how they think this happens.

BRCA2 normally controls a molecule called Rad51, which is involved in repairing DNA and keeps the genes in a cell intact. Researchers at the University of Cambridge studied precisely how the BRCA2 protein molecule, produced from the gene, interacts with Rad51 and how the process goes wrong when BRCA2 is faulty.

They discovered that BRCA2 has eight Velcro-like strips, each of which attaches to Rad51 using a multitude of tiny molecular hooks. By sticking to the Rad51 molecule, BRCA2 may direct it accurately to sites of DNA damage and control its ability to carry out repair. When BRCA2 goes wrong so does the DNA repair system, the cells DNA and thus cancer risk is heightened.

Team leader Professor Ashok Venkitaraman, of the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre in Cambridge believes this will lead to the development of new types of anti-cancer drug - although progress in this direction will take more time and continued effort. The BRCA2 gene was originally discovered by UK scientist, Professor Mike Stratton, at The Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, back in 1995.

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