Breast Cancer
A sign for the Susan G. Komen Foundation's 2012 Race for the Cure is displayed in Washington June 2, 2012. The Susan G. Komen Foundation raises awareness and funding for breast cancer research and services. Reuters/Joshua Roberts

An Australian breast cancer breakthrough has offered new hope to women with the faulty gene that causes aggressive breast cancer. The research has offered an alternative treatment to mastectomy. A team led by Australian researchers found that injections of an inhibitor reduced propagation of pre-cancerous cells in BRCA1 breast tissue not only in mice but also in three Melbourne women carrying the gene mutation.

The study, published in journal Nature Medicine, has been able to pinpoint the “culprit cell” that goes wrong and causes cancer in women with the faulty BRCA1 gene. Around one in 400 Aussie women are affected by the faulty gene. Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute were able to find a particular protein on the surface of the cells that may help in checking the spread of the cancer cells.

According to professor Geoff Lindeman, drug denosumab, used to treat breast cancer that has spread to the bone or osteoporosis, may be “repurposed” for BRCA1 patients. Lindeman found this very exciting as he hoped the culprit cells could be switched off before they produce breast tumours.

A clinical trial will be performed to find out if the drug can be used in more aggressive forms of breast cancer seen in BRCA1 patients who are generally women. A major study is also expected to be carried out in the next two years. However, it may take up to 10 years to know the outcomes. Lindeman said that findings of Australian study can be extremely helpful for women of the next generation.

“We're very hopeful that this new approach using denosumab as an inhibitor could offer hope for women who are at very high risk for breast cancer. Really, there isn't a proven prevention drug at this stage and so we're very hopeful,” Lindeman told the ABC.