Genetic links to ovarian cancer 'identified'

An international team, led by Queensland Institute of Medical Research, has identified the genetic variants after comparing genes of 10,283 women with ovarian cancer to 13,185 women without the disease.

Prof Georgia Chenevix-Trench, who led the team, said: "We now have more powerful genetic techniques that enable us to detect small genetics changes that impact our health.

"The study identified five different stretches of DNA that contained single code variations -- known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) -- that were associated with ovarian cancer risk.

"This is the equivalent of finding five individual spelling mistakes in over 200,000 pages of text. Four of the five new DNA variations were more common in women who had developed the most common and aggressive form of disease known as serous ovarian cancer."

According to the scientists, the latest findings raise the possibility that, in the future, women 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.

"Alternatively, preventive approaches could be targeted towards these women. This research is a great example of international collaboration leading to better understanding ovarian cancer.

"These findings complement another study, in which we identified that one of these five DNA regions increased the risk of breast cancer in women who carry the faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene. These results strengthen the evidence that breast and ovarian cancer share a similar genetic basis," said Prof Chenevix-Trench.

The research was conducted in collaboration with the University College London, Cambridge University in the UK, as well as many other universities from around the world.

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