"Four genes implicated in the development of breast cancer have been discovered by scientists at Cambridge University. Said Professor Carlos Caldas, who headed led the research team: “By using the latest in DNA technology we've been able to pinpoint four new genes likely to be involved in the development of breast cancer.”

The scientists developed high-resolution DNA microarray technology and used it to analyse 33 primary breast tumours, 20 primary ovarian tumours and 27 breast cancer cell lines. In all, 24% of the breast tumors, 5% of the ovary tumours and 15% of the cell lines showed amplification of a certain area on chromosome 8, which had previously been identified as having a link to tumour development. The genes FLJ14299, C8orf2, BRF2 and RAB11FIP, fell within this area and have a potentially oncogenic (or cancer causing) role.

The overwhelming majority of breast cancers are caused by damage to genes acquired during a woman's lifetime, says Cancer Research UK. However, researchers have so far only pinpointed a few of the possible genes involved. Before the map of the human genome was completed, and improved technology was developed, this type of analysis would have taken years, as scientists were only able to study one gene at a time.

Professor Caldas says: "Scientists have been trying to pinpoint the genes on chromosome eight involved in breast cancer development for the last two decades and DNA microarrays have allowed us to greatly accelerate the search. Hopefully this cutting edge technology will trigger a parallel increase in the speed at which new cancer treatments reach the patient. Early indications are that tumours with multiple copies of these genes are more aggressive. If this is confirmed it might provide a lead for targeted therapies in these cases."