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Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered a gene that repairs damaged DNA is also linked to ovarian cancer in mice. They say if the gene - known as Helq - is faulty or missing, DNA errors accumulate as cells multiply, and this raises the chance of developing the cancer.
They write about their findings in the September 4th online issue of Nature.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, but it is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
The ACS estimates that in 2013, around 22,240 women in the US will discover they have ovarian cancer, and 14,030 will die of the disease.
In the UK, every year around 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 4,300 die from it, according to figures from Cancer Research UK.
The main reason for the high numbers of deaths relative to new cases is because ovarian cancer is hard to diagnose early and treat successfully.
Dr. Julie Sharp, the senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK says:
"This study pulls together clues from a series of experiments building a picture of cell faults that could lead to ovarian cancer in women."
She adds that the more we know about the causes, the better equipped we are to detect the disease early and the better the chance of successful treatment.
Previous studies on flies and nematodes had already established that Helq is involved in DNA repair, but little was known about its role in mammals.
So the team from Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute decided to investigate Helq in mice.
They studied mice that had only one copy of the gene missing and also some where both copies were missing.
They found mice with both copies of Helq missing were twice as likely to develop ovarian tumors, compared with mice that had both copies. Missing both copies of the gene also made mice less fertile.
Even the mice that had only one of their two copies of Helq missing developed more tumors than mice with both copies.
Senior author Dr. Simon Boulton says:
"Our findings show that if there are problems with the Helq gene in mice, it increases the chance of them developing ovarian and other tumors."
He says they are excited by the discovery because the same could be true for women with a missing or faulty Helq gene.
Dr. Boulton continues:
"If it plays a similar role in humans, this may open up the possibility that, in the future, women could be screened for errors in the Helq gene that might increase their risk of ovarian cancer."
In another study recently published in the journal Cancer, US researchers describe how they developed a new screening strategy for ovarian cancer that could detect the disease earlier.
The strategy comprises a two-stage method that measures changes in CA125, a known blood-marker for tumors.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
HELQ promotes RAD51 paralogue-dependent repair to avert germ cell loss and tumorigenesis; Carrie A. Adelman, Rafal L. Lolo, Nicolai J. Birkbak, Olga Murina, Kenichiro Matsuzaki, Zuzana Horejsi, Kalindi Parmar, Valérie Borel, J. Mark Skehel, Gordon Stamp, Alan D'Andrea, Alessandro A. Sartori, Charles Swanton, & Simon J. Boulton; Nature Published online 04 September 2013; DOI:10.1038/nature12565; Abstract
Additional source: Cancer Research UK press release 4 September 2013.
Visit our Ovarian Cancer category page for the latest news on this subject.
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Paddock, Catharine. "New ovarian cancer gene found in mice." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 5 Sep. 2013. Web.
10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265688>
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