In the largest-ever study of its kind, an international collaboration of hundreds of scientists has uncovered 74 new genetic markers linked to three common hormonal cancers—breast, prostate, and ovarian—thus setting the stage for new treatments, targeted screening, and a greater understanding of how these diseases develop.

The findings were outlined in a series of 13 research papers in five different journals. Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers contributed to five of the papers, which were published March 27, 2013 in Nature Genetics. The other studies were published in Nature Communications, PLoS Genetics, Human Molecular Genetics, and the American Journal of Human Genetics.

“These papers are significant because they have greatly increased our knowledge of the genetics underlying breast, prostate and ovarian cancer,” said Peter Kraft, HSPH professor of epidemiology and senior author of a paper that uncovered four new variants linked with an aggressive form of breast cancer called estrogen receptor (ER)-negative. “These findings will generate biological hypotheses that could lead to potential treatments down the road. In addition, we’ve now learned enough about these variants to start thinking about using them in the clinic—for instance, we could potentially identify women who might benefit from earlier breast cancer screening.”

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