How to stop breast cancer? Researchers say stopping ‘exhausted cells’ may do the trick

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New Delhi: According to researchers, exhausted immune cells could be key to stopping breast cancer even before it begins. As per a study, existing drugs for this disease could be used effectively to prevent cancer in women who are at high risk of it. It can also mitigate the risk of ever suffering from the disease or needing surgery for it, says the University of Cambridge. It was found that immune cells in the breast tissue of a healthy woman contain BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that are likely to malfunction after some time which is also known as exhaustion.

How do exhausted cells prevent breast cancer?

The mechanism of gene exhaustion is often found in late-stage tumours. This suggests that immune cells cannot clear damaged cells and that may over time lead to cancer. Results also suggest that in the carriers of BRCA mutations, the immune system fails to fill damaged breast cells. This seems to be working in sync to keep immune cells at bay. Researchers said that this opens up the potential for preventive treatment rather than surgery for carriers of breast cancer gene mutations.

As per experts, drugs that already exist herein can overcome the block in immune cell function, and the drugs available so far have only been approved for use in the late stages of the diseases. Experts said that they have not considered in the past using these for preventive purposes.

The BRCA mutation is a mutation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and these are popularly known as tumour suppressors. The fault genes are known to affect one in 400 people and up to 85% of women with either BRCA mutations are likely to develop breast cancer in their life. Experts say that some patients with this gene may choose to have their breasts removed surgically to reduce cancer risk. The study, published in Nature Genetics, offers hope for breast cancer patients.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease characterised by the formation of a tumour in the breasts or around the area. It is the most common form of cancer reported in women living in metropolitan India. The symptoms of breast cancer are:

Lump in the breast or the armpit
Red, flaky skin in the nipple or breast area
Thickening or swelling of a part of the breast
Dimpling, irritation of breast skin
Pulling in of nipple
Pain in the nipple area
Nipple discharge

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