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The drug vemurafenib has been successful in treating advanced melanomas with BRAF mutations, but was surprisingly unsuccessful in treating colon cancers with the same mutations, says Nature News' Heidi Ledford. A new study in Nature may shed some light on why colon cancer has resisted this drug, and may also offer answers as to how to get around that resistance. To examine the problem, researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute used an RNAi screen, and found that colon cells with BRAF mutations became sensitive to vemurafenib only after the expression of EGFR was knocked down, Ledford says. "In fact, treatment with vemurafenib activated EGFR in colon tumors, but not in melanoma, where EGFR is expressed only at low levels," she adds. This finding could mean that coupling EGFR inhibitors with vemurafenib may work to treat the 8 percent to 10 percent of colon cancers with a BRAF mutation.

The Scan

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.

Study Explores Animated Digital Message Approach to Communicate Genetic Test Results to Family Members

In the Journal of Genetic Counseling, the approach showed promise in participants presented with a hypothetical scenario related to a familial hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome diagnosis.

Computational Tool Predicts Mammalian Messenger RNA Degradation Rates

A tool called Saluki, trained with mouse and human messenger RNA data, appears to improve mRNA half-life predictions by taking RNA and genetic features into account, a Genome Biology paper reports.

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.