Prevalence and spectrum of germline rare variants in BRCA1/2 and PALB2 among breast cancer cases in Sarawak, Malaysia

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2017 Oct;165(3):687-697. doi: 10.1007/s10549-017-4356-8. Epub 2017 Jun 29.


Purpose: To characterize the spectrum of germline mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2 in population-based unselected breast cancer cases in an Asian population.

Methods: Germline DNA from 467 breast cancer patients in Sarawak General Hospital, Malaysia, where 93% of the breast cancer patients in Sarawak are treated, was sequenced for the entire coding region of BRCA1; BRCA2; PALB2; Exons 6, 7, and 8 of TP53; and Exons 7 and 8 of PTEN. Pathogenic variants included known pathogenic variants in ClinVar, loss of function variants, and variants that disrupt splice site.

Results: We found 27 pathogenic variants (11 BRCA1, 10 BRCA2, 4 PALB2, and 2 TP53) in 34 patients, which gave a prevalence of germline mutations of 2.8, 3.23, and 0.86% for BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2, respectively. Compared to mutation non-carriers, BRCA1 mutation carriers were more likely to have an earlier age at onset, triple-negative subtype, and lower body mass index, whereas BRCA2 mutation carriers were more likely to have a positive family history. Mutation carrier cases had worse survival compared to non-carriers; however, the association was mostly driven by stage and tumor subtype. We also identified 19 variants of unknown significance, and some of them were predicted to alter splicing or transcription factor binding sites.

Conclusion: Our data provide insight into the genetics of breast cancer in this understudied group and suggest the need for modifying genetic testing guidelines for this population with a much younger age at diagnosis and more limited resources compared with Caucasian populations.

Keywords: BRCA1/2; Breast cancer; Germline mutation; Malaysia; PALB2.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alleles
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Fanconi Anemia Complementation Group N Protein / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Germ-Line Mutation*
  • Humans
  • Malaysia / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Fanconi Anemia Complementation Group N Protein
  • PALB2 protein, human