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Gene 'Map' of Ovarian Cancer Yields New Clues to Treatment
Date:6/29/2011

ancer," Spellman explained.

Among some of the main findings:

  • There appear to be four different subtypes of HGS-OvCa, as well as four more additional related subtypes, based on the genetic scan.
  • Abnormalities present in a key gene, called TP53, were found in nearly all (96 percent) of patients diagnosed with these tumors.
  • Just over one in every five of the tumors were found to have tumor mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which have long been linked to risks for both ovarian and breast cancers. In this case, patients whose cancers carried these mutations had better survival rates than those who did not.
  • Overall, specific patterns in 108 genes were also linked to poorer survival, while those for another 85 genes were linked to better outcomes. Patients with genetic activity deemed "poor" were found to have 23 percent shorter survival than those without such genetic aberrations.

The genomic scan also points to tantalizing new leads for potential treatments, the researchers said.

For example, mapping also revealed 68 genes that could become appropriate therapeutic targets for medications -- either drugs already approved for cancer treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or drugs still under development, the researchers noted.

According to the team, as many as half of all the aggressive ovarian tumors they studied might respond to drugs that focus on genetic weaknesses in the tumor to help induce cancer cell death.

Dr. Andrew Berchuck, director of the gynecologic cancer program at Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C., said that the main point here is that "not all ovarian cancers are alike."

"What's basically been done here is an autopsy," he explained. "A forensic analysis of tumors. And what they find is that the molecular changes that occur in one case of ovarian cancer can be dramatically different from that of another in terms of what's gone wrong in terms of cell growth a
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