Why are some people more likely to get cancer?
In 2005, a discovery about how broken DNA is repaired helped explain why some people are at greater risk of developing certain cancers.
Keeping our DNA from harm is vitally important, and so our bodies constantly monitor it for damage. Usually, any problems are spotted and automatically repaired, but if the repair process goes wrong we may develop cancer.
Steve West’s research at the CRUK London Research Institute showed how a protein called BRCA2 directs other proteins to repair broken DNA. People with a faulty copy of the BRCA2 gene may end up with damaged DNA, which puts them at increased risk of developing particular types of cancer.
The CRUK London Research Institute built a world-renowned programme for DNA repair research, under the leadership of Nobel Prize laureate Tomas Lindahl. This continues in the Francis Crick Institute, where Steve still works.
Fellow Crick scientist Simon Boulton also explores how cells repair DNA damage. This work helps us understand more about cancer, ageing and infertility.