Women With Breast Cancer Carrying BRCA Genetic Mutations Have Similar Survival, As Noncarriers

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Women diagnosed with breast cancer carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genemutations, which are thought to increase the risk of developing thedisease, have similar survival and death rates as women not carryingthe mutations, according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For the study, Gad Rennert, chair of the medical faculty at Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and colleagues examined the 10-year survival rate of 1,545 women diagnosed with breast cancer (Pereira, Wall Street Journal, 7/12). The participants were treated at 22 hospitals in Israel, Reutersreports. The study found that the 10-year survival rate was 67% forwomen carrying a BRCA1 mutation, 56% for those carrying a BRCA2mutation and 67% for the participants who did not carry the genemutations. According to researchers, the difference in survival rateswas not statistically significant.

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Of the women without the genemutations who died of breast cancer, 68% died within five years,compared with 88% of women with a BRCA1 mutation and 77% of women witha BRCA2 mutation, the study found. Researchers also found that thetumors among women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tended to be moreaggressive (Emery, Reuters, 7/11). "As a result of thestudy, we can offer to the medical community the assurance that thereis no difference in the prognosis between carriers and noncarriers,"Rennert said (Wall Street Journal, 7/12).

Accompanying Editorial

Patricia Hartge of the National Cancer Institute in an accompanying NEJM editorialwrote, "Learning whether a patient who has just been given a diagnosisof breast cancer also bears one of the cancer-causing mutations in theBRCA1 or BRCA2 genes may add little to the clinician's ability toselect a therapy or predict the course of the disease, once the gradeand receptor status of the tumor and the age of the patient are takeninto account" (Reuters, 7/11).

She added that oneconfusing statistic in the study involves a small number ofparticipants who died within 10 years even though their tumors weresmall and had not spread to the lymph nodes. While the conclusion ofthe study is "generally comforting, there is this little disturbingfootnote that is calling for further research on the subject," Hartgewrote (Wall Street Journal, 7/12).
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