Fanconi anaemia is a rare inherited disorder that causes children to develop bone marrow failure. Although a bone marrow transplant can cure the anaemia, many patients go on to develop a variety of cancers.
The disorder is brought about by a mutation in any one of seven genes — five of which have been cloned. The proteins produced by these five genes form an enzyme that activates the sixth gene. Research teams led by Alan D'Andrea, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and Markus Grompe, of the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, report in the 16 February
Approximately 50% of women with a strong family history of breast cancer have a defective
D'Andrea believes that it may be possible to design a drug that amplifies the effects of FANCD2, thus accelerating the repair work of BRCA1 and reducing the chances that breast cancer will occur in people with a genetic predisposition for it. But, says D'Andrea, "Much work remains to be done before such therapies become a reality."