Breast cancer survival unaffected by faulty gene

The actress Angelina Jolie had a pre-emptive mastectomy after finding out that she had a BRCA gene mutation

According to the paper, this is the largest study of its kind to look at breast cancer outcomes based on a woman's BRCA mutation status.

"This important topic needs more prospective research as preventive surgical measures might have an effect on what might be a very long life after a diagnosis of breast cancer at a young age", wrote Peter Fasching, MD, of Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, in an editorial published with the study. The faulty gene increases the risk of a woman developing breast and ovarian cancers, with 45% to 90% of women with the mutation developing breast cancer during their lifetime, compared to roughly 12.5% of women in the general population.

Have you been diagnosed with breast cancer and carry the BRCA gene mutation?

Young women with the BRCA gene mutation that prompted actress Angelina Jolie's pre-emptive and much-publicised double mastectomy are not more likely to die after a breast cancer diagnosis, scientists said Friday.

Young breast cancer patients with faulty BRCA genes have the same survival chances as those without, a study has found. This was true at 2, 5 and 10 years following diagnosis. These findings remained similar regardless of whether mutations were in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

"It can be hard for some patients to decide whether or not to have risk-reducing surgery, typically double mastectomies and removal of ovaries".

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"Our findings suggest that this surgery does not have to be immediately undertaken along with the other treatment".

She added: "In view of this, younger women with breast cancer can take time to discuss whether radical breast surgery is the right choice for them as part of a longer-term risk reducing strategy".

"In particular, being able to give some women with triple negative breast cancer the choice to delay a risk-reducing mastectomy would allow them to take back control of a major part of their treatment and offer them more time to recover from their initial therapy".

A subgroup analysis of 558 patients with triple-negative breast cancer, however, did show a significant survival advantage during the first few years after diagnosis in BRCA mutation carriers.

Eccles and her colleagues noted that the findings might not apply to older breast cancer patients with a BRCA mutation.

In the trial, Lynparza - developed with Merck & Co Inc - significantly prolonged progression-free survival compared with chemotherapy, and reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 42%. "These risks determine treatment, and knowing that BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations do not result in a different prognosis might change the therapeutic approach for these risks". The FDA says it is expanding approval of Lynparza (olaparib) to include use against BRCA-linked tumors that have spread outside the breast.

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