KFSH&RC Succeeds in Identifying an Epigenetic Biomarker since Birth That May Help Predict the Risks of Breast and Ovarian Cancers Before They Occur in Women





A research team at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre (KFSH&RC) in Riyadh has succeeded in identifying an Epigenetic biomarker, present since birth, which can predict the risks of breast and ovarian cancers before they occur in women. This study was applauded by specialists and published in a prestigious clinical research journal, Clinical Epigenetic


The findings of the study led by Dr. Nisreen Al-Moghrabi—Head of Cancer Epigenetic Section at KFSH&RC-Riyadh—revealed that women carrying methylated  BRCA1 gene in their white blood cells may be at risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. According to this study, 18% of patients with breast cancer and 15% of patients with ovarian cancer harbor methylated BRCA1 promoter in their white blood cells. Methylation is a mechanism that disrupts the gene but does not affect the sequence of its nitrogenous bases.


The study found that cancer-free women who carry methylated BRCA1 have cancer-related molecular changes in the white blood cells similar to those in the blood cells of women with cancer. This may indicate the potential predisposition of the carriers for developing breast or ovarian cancer. The study further confirmed that this methylation is present in the blood of female’s newborns and can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her daughter at the rate of 20%.


Currently, the research team is using the results of this study on a large cohort of cancer-free women to detect the methylation of BRCA1 in their blood; this might act as a vital indicator of the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and help deal with these diseases at the early stages or even preventing their occurrence.