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Breakthrough in Ovarian Cancer Research Brings Hope

Breakthrough in Ovarian Cancer Research Brings Hope
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For years, ovarian cancer has only been detectable in its most advanced stages, leaving women with almost no hope for survival once diagnosed. But a new study, released Wednesday by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has reported findings that may not only be able to detect the onset of ovarian cancer but also target genetic weaknesses in cancer cells.

An unprecedented 316 ovarian tumors were studied by scientists at The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a federally funded network of medical centers, and found that 96 percent of the tumors had mutated TP53 genes.

TP53 creates a tumor suppressor protein, stopping cells from growing and dividing uncontrollably. Mutations in the gene disrupt this protein’s function.

TCGA researchers also established how sets of genes are expressed, identifying patterns for 108 genes associated with poor survival and 85 genes associated with better survival. This—coupled with the findings of scientists at the Ovarian Cancer Action that found that cancer cells do not in fact build immunities to cancer drugs, but instead contain cells that are resistant to them—will aid tremendously in the ability to target and destroy cancer cells in the future.

NCI Director Harold E. Varmus, M.D reports:

“The new knowledge of the genomic changes in ovarian cancer has revealed that the molecular catalysts of this disease are not limited to small changes affecting individual genes. Cancer researchers can use this comprehensive body of information to better understand the biology of ovarian cancer and improve the diagnosis and treatment of this dreaded disease.”

The hope in time—and with a sense of urgency for those already affected by cancer—is to use these findings to create a personalized approach to cancer, ovarian or otherwise, that had not previously been thought possible.

For more information and the detailed report: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2011/nci-29.htm

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