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NBCF researcher Tu Nguyen Dumont focuses on breast cancer prevention

June 26th, 2017

Dr Tu Nguyen-DumontWhen people meet breast cancer researcher Tu Nguyen-Dumont they always ask how close we are to a cure. That’s not the question Tu is seeking to answer – she is tackling the question from the other end – trying to prevent women from developing breast cancer in the first place.

Her research is advancing our understanding of the genes common to women who have a high risk of breast cancer. The infamous BRCA genes are not the only genes that can cause breast cancer and even when women go for genetic testing for breast cancer, there is a lot of uncertainty about what the test says about their risk. Tu is aiming to change that for the better.

A passion for breast cancer research

She’s always had an interest in genetics and has been very lucky to have strong mentors – international leaders in breast cancer research who have been incredibly inspiring. Since her undergraduate studies, her career was dedicated to breast cancer research. This has taken her from Lyon, France to Melbourne in 2011, and she still travels regularly. Her research has thrived under the numerous opportunities to meet with researchers and clinicians who are changing the face of genetics and breast cancer research, but also the breast cancer community in Australia, who are so supportive of researchers.

Genetic risk counselling helps women

Tu knows it can be frustrating that research does not progress as fast as we would like. She says new faster and more powerful genetic technology, such as multiple gene panel testing, have emerged. These advances have opened the door to an amazing number of new discoveries which will help women at high risk of developing breast cancer.

In her field, Tu works with doctors, population health experts and policy makers. As a team, she believes together they have the power to influence current practice in the clinic. In fact, her team has already had some success – improving how counselling on risk and treatment options is offered to women with breast cancer.

The future of genetic testing

Research into who is likely to develop breast cancer has made tremendous progress since the discovery of BRCA1 and BRCA2. In saying that, 80 per cent of women going through genetic testing in Australia receive results that don’t relate to BRCA genes, but they are still considered to be at a higher risk due to other unknown genes.

Tu’s research is working to make test results clearer so more women and their families can be better informed about their situation and make choices that could prevent them ever having to deal with breast cancer that could have been avoided.