Epigenetic differences may explain identical twins ’different risks of breast cancer

Identical twins have the same genome. Although genetically the same, twins may have different diseases at different times. But how do people with the same gene sequence show different pathological characteristics at different ages? The answer lies partly in the fact that the chemical signals added to DNA to turn genes on or off can be different. These signals are also called epigenetic markers.

A research team led by Manel Esteller, a researcher from Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) in Spain, identified an epigenetic change in one of the twins who will develop breast cancer, but the other in the twins. This change has not occurred in a healthy person. This discovery was published this week in the journal Carcinogenesis.

The team studied the DNA methylation levels in the blood of 36 twins who were healthy or diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers analyzed 500,000 fragments of each human genome in each pair of twins and compared them to each other. They found that women with breast cancer showed a pathological increase in methylation on the DOK7 gene. Regarding these findings, Dr. Esteller said, "In the years before the clinical diagnosis, we were able to detect an epigenetic change associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in one of the twins."

The next step for the researchers is to understand the exact function of the DOK7 gene. Dr. Esteller said, "We think it is a regulator of tyrosine kinase, which is an antitumor drug target that has been used to treat breast cancer. If DOK7 performs this function, then In the future we can plan new research to test drugs that have a chemopreventive effect on breast cancer. "

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