What it is & What we know
Genes and Gene Mutations
Our DNA is made up of thousands of genes which contain the instructions for how to make the proteins that regulate our bodies, telling our cells when to replicate, repair themselves, and/or destroy damaged cells.
Genes behave abnormally when they have mutated in some way and therefore cannot receive or send instructions properly.
Gene mutations can either be inherited or acquired (somatic). Inherited gene mutations are passed down from your mother and/or father, and are in every cell in your body when you are born. Acquired or somatic gene mutations occur after you are born and can result from environmental or lifestyle factors such as smoking, radiation, UV exposure, diet, etc.
Cancer is a disease that results from abnormal gene function.
While it is believed that much of the time cancer is due to chance, about 5-10% of cancers have known hereditary causes, in other words, a known gene mutation is “passed on” from parents to children. However, there is no known genetic explanation for at least half of families with strong cancer histories. Our work at MiraKind is to discover the genetic markers for many more cancers, and to use this information to define the strategies and behaviors that may help reduce cancer risk.
The KRAS-variant is a good example of such a biomarker which provides a new explanation for the genetic cause of cancer for many families with strong cancer histories. This inherited gene mutation is associated with an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and lung cancer, as well as multiple cancers in the same individual. The KRAS-variant is found in up to 25% of cancer patients, and is in 1/17 people in the general population, making it far more common that previously known mutations associated with cancer, such as BRCA1, which is found in only 5% of breast and ovarian cancer patients, and in 1/400 people overall.
Before the KRAS-variant
After the KRAS-variant
Hereditary cancer is caused by known inherited genetic mutations such as BRCA or CHEK2; familial cancer is cancer that occurs in families more often than would be expected by chance, although there has been no known genetic mutation identified to explain it; sporadic cancer is the term used to explain cancer that occurs in people who do not have a known strong family history or a known inherited genetic difference. The KRAS-variant is emerging as a hereditary explanation for a significant proportion of both familial and sporadic cancers that were previously unexplained.
What can the KRAS-variant tell me about my health?
The KRAS-variant was discovered in 2007, and MiraKind’s research studies are helping us learn more about its implications for health and cancer risk every day. However, we have already learned some important things about how individuals with the KRAS-variant may be able to use information about their KRAS-variant status to help them make decisions about their health. Learn more about the KRAS-variant if you have a family or personal history of cancer, have tested BRCA-negative, or are peri- or menopausal.
Getting tested for the KRAS-variant provides information that you and your doctor can use to make informed decisions about your health. If you do test positive, we are here to work with you and your physician—you can learn more about what your KRAS-variant test result means for your health in Understanding Your Results. As well, MiraKind’s community is available to provide ongoing support, communication, and education to you and your family members.
Why join a study?
By joining a MiraKind study, you can play a role in helping MiraKind answer some of the most pressing questions associated with cancer risk for individuals with the KRAS-variant. We are on a mission to better understand the behaviors, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices that can influence an individual’s risk of cancer, and your participation in a study helps us get closer to finding the answers to improve health for all individuals with the KRAS-variant, as well as to understand new mutations like the KRAS-variant.
How joining a study works.
Learn more about participating in a MiraKind study here.