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BRCA-associated and other hereditary cancers may respond better to certain chemotherapies such as platinum-based therapies. Platinum-based drugs (such as carboplatin and cisplatin) damage the DNA in cancer cells. Our cells use the products of many of the genes associated with hereditary cancer including BRCA1, BRCA2, PALB2, ATM, and others to repair damage to our DNA. Cancer cells in people with mutations have problems repairing DNA already, and platinum chemotherapy can make that worse.
Researchers are looking at whether platinum-based drugs may work better than other types of chemotherapy for mutation carriers. Platinum therapies are used as standard first-line treatment for ovarian cancer but they are not usually used for breast cancer. A clinical trial known as the INFORM Study is looking at whether women with mutations who are newly-diagnosed with breast cancer respond better to platinum therapy compared with other chemotherapy. Another clinical trial is looking at the use of platinum-based therapy in metastatic prostate cancer patients with mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2, ATM, or other genes involved in the same DNA repair pathway. Results of these and other similar studies could help us better understand the best chemotherapy treatment for BRCA-associated cancers.