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Scientists ID 5 Gene Variants Linked to Ovarian Cancer

Findings could help advance prevention, treatment options for those most at risk, expert suggests

SUNDAY, Sept. 19, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- New genetic variants linked to ovarian cancer risk have been identified by an international consortium of scientists.

The researchers analyzed the DNA of more than 10,000 women with ovarian cancer and more than 13,000 women without the disease. They found five genetic variants in regions of the genome (chromosomes 2, 3, 8, 17 and 19) associated with ovarian cancer risk.

Four out of five of these variants were more common in women who had serous ovarian cancer, the most common and aggressive form of the disease.

"These latest findings raise 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," Dr. Andrew Berchuck, head of the steering committee of the international Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, said in a Duke University Medical Center news release.

"It also suggests that preventive approaches could be targeted towards these women," added Berchuck, who is a professor of gynecologic oncology at Duke.

The study was published in the Sept. 19 online edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

Two other studies in the same issue of the journal found a region on chromosome 19 that affects ovarian cancer risk, and that variation in this same region on chromosome 19 also increases the risk of breast cancer in women who already carry a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene on chromosome 17.

Previous research has shown that mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can greatly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

"I think that the most important message women can take away from this work is that we are making progress in understanding ovarian cancer," Paul Pharoah, of Cancer Research UK Center for Genetic Epidemiology at Cambridge University, and senior author on two of the studies, said in the news release.

"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," Pharoah added.

Each year, ovarian cancer kills about 13,000 women in the United States and 130,000 women worldwide.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer.

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, Sept. 19, 2010
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