Grant in Virginia Will Fund Hereditary Breast Cancer Research

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​The Commonwealth Health Research Board recently awarded a grant to Zhi Sheng and Deborah Kelly, assistant professors at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, to study hereditary occurrences of breast cancer. The board, which finances research intended to benefit Virginians, will fund a two-year study aimed at learning about the BRCA1 gene thought to cause hereditary breast cancer. Kelly explained that, as of yet, very little recourse exists for patients dealing with BRCA1-related tumors.

“Targeted treatments do not exist for BRCA1-related tumors, which tend to be more aggressive and difficult to manage by conventional therapies,” Kelly said in a statement. “They are also more likely to recur.”

When healthy, the BRCA1 protein actually acts as a tumor suppressor, protecting DNA from improperly dividing. Problems arise when the protein is mutated, and fails to protect against uncontrolled cell growth. Between 55 and 65 percent of women who inherit a flawed BRCA1 gene will develop breast cancer by age 70.

According to the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Kelly was also recently honored with a Young Investigator Award from the Concern Foundation, who will also be providing her for her studies of breast cancer at the Carilion Research Institute.The findings of these studies could influence treatments for other types of cancer in the future.

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