Recent studies have identified mutations in the breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility gene 2 (BRCA2), one which has been found in the germline of several males and one female affected with breast cancer. To establish the carrier frequency of this mutation in a large population of individuals affected with cancer, we evaluated constitutional DNA isolated from 83 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer and 93 diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age, 42 of whom reported a family history of cancer. Using a simple allele-specific PCR-based nonradioactive method, we detected a total of eight individuals (4.5%) carrying a 1-bp deletion at nucleotide 6174 of the BRCA2 gene (6174delT). The age of disease onset in the mutant allele carriers was highly variable and typically late onset (41–72 years for breast cancer and 48–73 years for ovarian cancer). Evaluation of family histories for the eight mutant allele carriers revealed that several individuals had significant cancer histories that included, in addition to breast and/or ovarian cancer, an increased incidence of colon, esophageal, pancreatic, stomach, and hematopoietic cancers. Interestingly, seven of the eight individuals were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Haplotype data for the mutant allele carriers using markers spanning the region of the BRCA2 gene on chromosome 13q12–q13 suggest that only two of the confirmed Jewish Ashkenazi individuals share a single common ancestry, indicating several independent origins for this mutation. These data provide evidence for the presence of a specific BRCA2 mutation which has its origins in both Jewish Ashkenazi and non-Jewish populations. The observed overrepresentation of specific mutations within a subgroup of the general population may eventually help contribute to the development of inexpensive and routine tests such as the one described in our study.


This work was supported, in part, by the Margaret Dyson Foundation and the Department of Defense DAMD17-94-J-4425 (M. D.) and the Komen Foundation, Hoxie Harison Smith Foundation, Butler Family Fund, Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America, Emile Zola Chapter of Brith Shalom Women, and NIH RO1 CA60643 Grant (A. K. G.).

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