Gene Research

Author: Prevent Breast Cancer - April 4, 2022

Breast Cancer Gene Research

This page explains more about Prevent Breast Cancer‘s gene research projects. If you would like to donate directly to our gene research pillar to help fund this research, please click here and choose ‘Gene Research’ as the project.

Gene research is the study of DNA to find out what might lead to people developing the disease. Genes are short sections of DNA. We know that if you have a family history of breast cancer, this can increase the likelihood that you will inherit the genes that lead to a higher risk of the disease. In certain cases, individuals may have gene mutations – or an alteration in the DNA sequence – which can lead to a very high risk of breast cancer being passed down generations of family members. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are well-known examples of this.

Research funded by Prevent Breast Cancer aims to find out more about which other genetic factors can increase the risk of developing cancer. The overall aim of much of this research is to improve the screening process for breast cancer and to help women to learn their personal risk of developing the disease.

Prevent Breast Cancer scientists are working on four key gene research projects:

  • Epigenetic Silencng of BRCA2 & PALB2 – our researchers have found an issue with the BRCA1 gene that current gene testing isn’t picking up. This could help explain why so many families with symptoms of inherited breast cancer do not get answers when they get gene tested. We are now looking at whether the same issue is happening with BRCA2 & PALB2.
  • SNPs Research – we are on phase three of a project which aims to improve the national screening process for breast cancer. Our team are testing women for small gene fragments known as ‘SNPs’ which are known to increase the risk of cancer when they come in for their first screening.
  • Breast Density and Gene Mutations – mammographic density, often known as breast density, is one of the biggest predictors of whether a woman is likely to develop breast cancer. If a woman has this trait they are up to six times more likely to develop the disease than someone who does not. This project looks into the genetic components of this trait.
  • Lobular Breast Cancer Gene – we hope to find out whether is there a gene that increases the likelihood of developing this form of breast cancer, which appears to run in families and accounts for 1 in 10 cases of the disease.

Thanks to our research, we are now able to predict with better accuracy who has a high breast cancer risk. If women receive an early warning that they are at risk of developing breast cancer, this knowledge allows them to take preventative action, for example by coming to regular screenings, making changes to their diet and lifestyle, or taking risk-reducing drugs.

Watch our charity’s Chairman Lester Barr MBE explain more about gene research at Prevent Breast Cancer in the video below.



If you would like to apply for a research grant, click here. Prevent Breast Cancer never fund research involving animals.