Soon after the discovery of BRCA1 and BRCA2 over 20 years ago, it became apparent that not all hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer syndrome families were explained by germline variants in these cancer predisposing genes, suggesting that other such genes have yet to be discovered. BRCA1-associated ring domain (BARD1), a direct interacting partner of BRCA1, was one of the earliest candidates investigated. Sequencing analyses revealed that potentially pathogenic BARD1 variants likely conferred a low-moderate risk to hereditary breast cancer, but this association is inconsistent. Here, we review studies of BARD1 as a cancer predisposing gene and illustrate the challenge of discovering additional cancer risk genes for hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer. We selected peer reviewed research articles that focused on three themes: (i) sequence analyses of BARD1 to identify potentially pathogenic germline variants in adult hereditary cancer syndromes; (ii) biological assays of BARD1 variants to assess their effect on protein function; and (iii) association studies of BARD1 variants in family-based and case-control study groups to assess cancer risk. In conclusion, BARD1 is likely to be a low-moderate penetrance breast cancer risk gene.
Keywords: BARD1; breast cancer; cancer predisposing gene; hereditary cancer syndromes; multi-gene panel testing; next-generation sequencing; ovarian cancer.