Researchers have identified an existing drug that they say has the potential to prevent or delay breast cancer for women at high risk of developing the disease.

[Breast cancer cells]
Researchers found the drug denosumab stopped the growth of cells that are a precursor to breast cancer in women with a BRCA1 gene mutation.

In a study published the journal Nature Medicine, researchers reveal how the drug denosumab halted the growth of pre-cancerous cells in breast tissue of women with a faulty BRCA1 gene.

Women with a BRCA1 gene mutation are at significantly greater risk for breast and ovarian cancers; around 55-65 percent of women with such a mutation will develop the disease by the age of 70, according to the National Cancer Institute, compared with 12 percent of those in the general population.

At present, the only way for women with a BRCA1 mutation to significantly reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers is to opt for a mastectomy – the surgical removal of one or both breasts – or an oophorectomy – the removal of the ovaries.

But in this latest study, Prof. Geoff Lindeman, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), Australia, and colleagues show promise for a non-surgical alternative.

Uncovering the ‘holy grail’ of cancer research

To reach their findings, the team analyzed a number of breast tissue samples from women with and without a BRCA1 mutation.

The authors say that a clinical trial is already underway to further investigate the breast cancer-preventing potential of RANK-inhibiting drugs