The Fanconi anaemia/BRCA pathway and cancer susceptibility. Searching for new therapeutic targets

Clin Transl Oncol. 2008 Feb;10(2):78-84. doi: 10.1007/s12094-008-0160-6.


Breast cancer is one of the most frequent cancers in the world. The majority of cases are sporadic but around 15% show some type of familial aggregation and about 5% exhibit a clear hereditary pattern. Common and rare low- moderate-penetrance genes, and high-penetrance genes are thought to explain the genetic susceptibility to the disease. Only around 20% of the inherited risk to breast cancer is explained by germline mutations in the known high-penetrance susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Mutations in genes such as TP53 and PTEN have also been linked with high risk for breast cancer within specific cancer syndromes and rare germline variants in genes such as CHEK2 and ATM have been found to confer modest risk to breast cancer. However, we can say that less than 30% of familial risk of breast cancer is due to known genes. Identification in 2002 of the Fanconi anaemia (FA) gene FANCD1 as BRCA2 and recent studies indicating that heterozygous mutations in FANCN/PALB2 and FANCJ/ BRIP1 predispose to breast cancer have emphasised an important connection between the FA and BRCA pathway. Here we review the emerging DNA-damage response network consisting of FA and BRCA proteins, summarise what is currently known about the direct involvement of these molecules in breast cancer susceptibility and discuss the prospect offered by this pathway in order to identify more breast cancer related genes. We finally present the current stage of therapeutic options specifically targeting the FA/BRCA pathway and summarise the challenges this field encounters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Fanconi Anemia / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction / physiology