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Genetic Variants Linked to Aggressive Ovarian Cancer


Scientists have linked new genetic variants with serous ovarian cancer, the most common and aggressive form of the disease. The discovery was made by an international consortium of scientists from the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia and reported in two articles in Nature Genetics.

New Ovarian Cancer Studies
Discovery of new genetic variants in five regions of the genome involved with ovarian cancer was achieved using previous research in which scientists compared 10,283 women who had ovarian cancer with 13,185 women who did not have the disease. That research revealed single DNA letter variations on chromosome 9 associated with the risk of ovarian cancer.

The new research has uncovered more areas of DNA on chromosomes 2, 3, 8, 17, and 19, and four of five of the new DNA variations were more common in women who had serous ovarian cancer.

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Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer. Less than 20 percent of cases are diagnosed at the most treatable stage, which means the majority of women are not being diagnosed early enough for treatment to be most effective. Early diagnosis is critical for improving the five-year survival rate.

According to Ovations for the Cure, more than 190,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed every year around the world. In the United States alone, the National Cancer Institute estimates that 21,880 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed in 2010, and that 13,850 women will die of the disease. In Australia, 1,500 women will learn they have the disease, while in the United Kingdom, about 6,800 women will be diagnosed in 2010.

Genetic Variant discovery may help identify early signs of ovarian cancer

This new discovery offers “the possibility that in the future, women in the general population who are at the greatest risk of developing ovarian cancer because they carry these newly discovered DNA variants can be identified and given closer surveillance to look for early signs of ovarian cancer when it is most treatable,” says Andrew Berchuck, MD, professor of gynecologic oncology at Duke University Medical Center and head of the steering committee of the international Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium.

The most important message women can get from this research, according to Paul Pharoah, PhD, of Cancer Research UK Center for Genetic Epidemiology at Cambridge University and a senior author on both studies, “is that we are making progress in understanding ovarian cancer. We are slowly but clearly leading toward a time when we will be able to draw an individualized profile of a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer and respond with appropriate prevention and treatment options.”

Duke University news release, Sept. 19, 2010
National Cancer Institute
Ovations for the Cure