Researchers have announced they found six new sites of variation on the genome that increase the risk of breast cancer. The discovery means “a sizable fraction of the overall genetic risk of breast cancer may now have been accounted for, and much of the rest could be captured in a few years.” This announcement is the result of the human genome project which was completed in 2003.

The human genome project was working to understand the genetic basis of common diseases. The project completed in 2003 but has been slow to show tangible results. However, the results are starting to come forth. Last month, researchers announced seven new DNA variations associated with diabetes, and announcements about other diseases are expected soon.

The new findings are possible through new instruments called chips which enable up to 5000,000 points of variation on the human genome to be tested simultaneously for possible association with disease. However, to attain the statistical strength needed for these studies many research groups, which have been otherwise competitive, are working together.

By using the new chips scientists compare breast cancer patients with healthy individuals and look for the differences in the DNA of the human genome. They have expressed confidence that most of the genetic risk of breast cancer can be detected through the whole genome association approach. The researchers believe the sites of variation will, once fully understood, reveal new biology that underlies the progression toward breast cancer.

See the full New York Times article here.

Bo Frith