Oncology Central

BRCA gene mutations and salivary gland cancer: is there a link?

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Researchers from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center — Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James; OH, USA) have recently discovered a possible link between the BRCA1/2 mutations and development of salivary gland cancer. This link has been known about for many years, however only recently have the association between BRCA mutations and salivary gland neoplasms been investigated. The results of this investigation were published recently in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Women who inherit a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene are at an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Men are also at an increased risk of breast cancer if they carry these mutated genes. The genes are linked to prostate, pancreatic and salivary cancers, among others.

This rare cancer type, which occurs in approximately three individuals per 100,000 adults in the USA, is thought to be increased 17 times in those with inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In total, 5754 individuals were included in the study, recruited from a large BRCA-gene-mutation database maintained by the OSUCCC, and three of these individuals had salivary cancer (0.052%).

The study’s principle investigator, Rebecca Nagy (OSUCCC – James) recommends that individuals with these mutations should be made aware of this association. Nagy, who is a genetic counselor, as well as a clinical associate professor, commented: “The finding should be considered during genetic counseling of families with inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations … in the future, patients with salivary gland cancer and their family members might be referred for BRCA testing, or carriers of BRCA mutations might undergo surveillance for salivary gland cancers.”

Coauthor Theodoros Teknos (OSUCCC – James) further stated that: “I would like physicians and dentists to realize that BRCA mutations carry risks for salivary gland cancer as well as breast cancer, and to remember that salivary glands include not only the paired parotid glands and submandibular glands but also innumerable minor salivary glands in the oral cavity.”

Sources: Shen TK, Teknos TN, Toland AE, Senter L, Nagy R. Salivary gland cancer in BRCA-positive families : a retrospective review. JAMA Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2014.1998 (2014) (Epub ahead of print); The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center press release

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