Yale University researchers have discovered why a key molecular assistant is crucial to the function of the BRCA2 gene, which in some mutant forms can lead to ovarian and breast cancer in as many as 6 in 10 women.

The findings suggest how biochemists might be able to decrease drug resistance to existing therapies that target this form of cancer, the authors report in the July 2 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

“We can design specific targets for drug development only if we fully understand the key players and how they work in the pathway for repairing DNA breaks,” said Patrick Sung, professor in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, researcher at the Yale Cancer Center, and senior author of the paper.