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, 18 (1), 1327-37

Evidence That BRCA1- Or BRCA2-associated Cancers Are Not Inevitable

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Evidence That BRCA1- Or BRCA2-associated Cancers Are Not Inevitable

Bess Levin et al. Mol Med.

Abstract

Inheriting a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation can cause a deficiency in repairing complex DNA damage. This step leads to genomic instability and probably contributes to an inherited predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer. Complex DNA damage has been viewed as an integral part of DNA replication before cell division. It causes temporary replication blocks, replication fork collapse, chromosome breaks and sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs). Chemical modification of DNA may also occur spontaneously as a byproduct of normal processes. Pathways containing BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene products are essential to repair spontaneous complex DNA damage or to carry out SCEs if repair is not possible. This scenario creates a theoretical limit that effectively means there are spontaneous BRCA1/2-associated cancers that cannot be prevented or delayed. However, much evidence for high rates of spontaneous DNA mutation is based on measuring SCEs by using bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU). Here we find that the routine use of BrdU has probably led to overestimating spontaneous DNA damage and SCEs because BrdU is itself a mutagen. Evidence based on spontaneous chromosome abnormalities and epidemiologic data indicates strong effects from exogenous mutagens and does not support the inevitability of cancer in all BRCA1/2 mutation carriers. We therefore remove a theoretical argument that has limited efforts to develop chemoprevention strategies to delay or prevent cancers in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers.

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