Background: PALB2 has recently been identified as a breast cancer susceptibility gene. PALB2 mutations are rare causes of hereditary breast cancer but may be important in countries such as Finland where a founder mutation is present. We sought to estimate the contribution of PALB2 mutations to the burden of breast cancer in French Canadians from Quebec.
Methods: We screened all coding exons of PALB2 in a sample of 50 French-Canadian women diagnosed with either early-onset breast cancer or familial breast cancer at a single Montreal hospital. The genetic variants identified in this sample were then studied in 356 additional women with breast cancer diagnosed before age 50 and in 6,448 newborn controls.
Results: We identified a single protein-truncating mutation in PALB2 (c.2323 C>T, resulting in Q775X) in 1 of the 50 high-risk women. This variant was present in 2 of 356 breast cancer cases and in none of 6,440 newborn French-Canadian controls (P = 0.003). We also identified two novel new non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms in exon 4 of PALB2 (c.5038 A>G [I76V] and c.5156 G>T [G115V]). G115V was found in 1 of 356 cases and in 15 of 6,442 controls (P = 0.6). The I76V variant was not identified in either the extended case series or the controls.
Conclusion: We have identified a novel truncating mutation in PALB2. The mutation was found in approximately 0.5% of unselected French-Canadian women with early-onset breast cancer and appears to have a single origin. Although mutations are infrequent, PALB2 can be added to the list of breast cancer susceptibility genes for which founder mutations have been identified in the French-Canadian population.