Background: Current knowledge of the aetiology of hereditary breast cancer in the four main South African population groups (black, coloured, Indian and white) is limited. Risk assessments in the black, coloured and Indian population groups are challenging because of restricted information regarding the underlying genetic contributions to inherited breast cancer in these populations. We focused this study on premenopausal patients (diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50; n = 78) and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients (n = 30) from the four South African ethnic groups. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency and spectrum of germline mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2 and to evaluate the presence of the CHEK2 c.1100delC allele in these patients.
Methods: In total, 108 South African breast cancer patients underwent mutation screening using a Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) approach in combination with Multiplex Ligation-dependent Probe Amplification (MLPA) to detect large rearrangements in BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Results: In 13 (12 %) patients a deleterious mutation in BRCA1/2 was detected, three of which were novel mutations in black patients. None of the study participants was found to have an unequivocal pathogenic mutation in PALB2. Two (white) patients tested positive for the CHEK2 c.1100delC mutation, however, one of these also carried a deleterious BRCA2 mutation. Additionally, six variants of unknown clinical significance were identified (4 in BRCA2, 2 in PALB2), all in black patients. Within the group of TNBC patients, a higher mutation frequency was obtained (23.3 %; 7/30) than in the group of patients diagnosed before the age of 50 (7.7 %; 6/78).
Conclusion: This study highlights the importance of evaluating germline mutations in major breast cancer genes in all of the South African population groups. This NGS study shows that mutation analysis is warranted in South African patients with triple negative and/or in premenopausal breast cancer.