New research in breast cancer genetics


A recent study describes 72 new genetic variants which are more common in patients who have breast cancer. These studies were published by a group of researchers from around the world, involving around 300 different institutions.

In the future, testing for these genetic variants may help genetic counselors predict a person’s risk for breast cancer.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa cancer specialist and medical oncologist Sneha Phadke, DO, and certified genetic counselor Krysten Shipley, MS, CGC, provide insights into this latest research.

Medical Oncologist Sneha Phadke, DO, and Genetic Counselor Krysten Shipley of University of Iowa Health Care.

Why choose Holden?

Patients of Holden Cancer Center benefit from a team-based approach that puts each patient at the center. At Holden, experts in specific cancer types—including a genetic counselor certified and specializing in cancer genetic counseling—are part of this team.

Holden patients also benefit from medical advances that take into account an individual’s tumor, genes, environment, and lifestyle to diagnose and treat their specific types of cancer. Known as personalized, or precision medicine, this highly specialized approach is part of Holden’s commitment to providing life-changing medical treatments and care.

What is genetic counseling?

A genetic counselor helps determine your hereditary cancer risk based on family history of cancer and other genetic indicators. This may include genetic testing.

By identifying your individual cancer risk, our genetic counselors will work with you to determine a personalized health care plan. This may include early intervention, increased screening, or simple risk-reducing lifestyle changes.

How does this breast cancer research impact genetic testing?

At this time, the 72 genetic variants are not ready for clinical testing. More research needs to be done before it can be used for individuals.

Extra screening is currently available at our high-risk breast clinic for women based on their risk for breast cancer. This testing uses well-established genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. The identification of these and other genes may indicate a higher risk for breast cancer.

The 72 genetic variants from this recent study may have a smaller impact on screening than other genes, but in the future they may help in further identifying breast cancer risk.

How will the findings from this genetic research be used by University of Iowa Health Care?

As an academic medical center, we strive to offer the newest technologies and the most up-to-date research. This new research may become another tool we are able to use in identifying your personal breast cancer risk.

Using new screening tools, our care team is able to offer more personalized health care — this is known as precision medicine. By better understanding your individual risk factors, characteristics, and family history, our multidisciplinary care team is able to adjust treatment based on your individual needs.

Journal reference:

Kyriaki Michailidou et al. Association analysis identifies 65 new breast cancer risk lociNature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature24284

Last reviewed: 
December 2017

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