Scientists in San Antonio have discovered the
machinery through which the BRCA1 breast cancer suppression gene does its
The lab findings from the Health Science Center were
reported in the July 30 issue of Science and could affect how women with
BRCA1-deficient tumors are cared for in the future.
In the paper, Wen-Hwa Lee, Ph.D., director of the
university’s Institute of Biotechnology (IBT), and his colleagues
describe the molecular basis of a link between BRCA1 and the most
important “DNA repair” machinery.
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the genetic
blueprint found in the cells of all living things. Problems with the
blueprint, such as breaks in the information, may result in conditions
such as cancer. DNA repair refers to the healthy body’s ongoing response
to correcting DNA damage.
The IBT research also showed that human cells in which
BRCA1 is defective are highly sensitive to DNA-damaging agents such as
gamma radiation, and that restoration of a normal BRCA1 gene confers
resistance against these agents.
“This work published in Science has broad
implications for women who are concerned about breast cancer,” said Dr.
Lee, who also serves as professor and chairman of the Department of
Molecular Medicine. “Families harboring mutations in the BRCA1 gene may
need to limit their radiation exposure because of a relative deficiency in