BRCA 1 Does More in Ovarian Ca

New Research on Ovarian Cancer

Jan. 4, 2002 (Ivanhoe Newswire)

A new test reveals a larger role for the BRCA1 gene in ovarian cancer than doctors previously believed. According to a study in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute, abnormally functioning copies of the gene often arise from mechanisms other than simply inheriting a defective copy of the gene.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer in the United States and one of the most common forms of hereditary cancer in women. Mutations in the BRCA1 gene have been shown to increase a woman's risk of developing this cancer, but testing for the gene has been difficult. Investigators from the University of Iowa came up with an efficient way to detect various types of dysfunction in the gene, and then looked at the incidence of these dysfunctions in 221 ovarian cancer patients.

Results show nearly one in four patients -- or about 23 percent -- had a dysfunction of their BRCA1 gene. Researchers say many of the dysfunctions were caused not by inheriting a defective copy of the gene, but by losing one copy of the gene while the other mutated on its own. Dysfunctions were also caused by losing both copies or losing one while the other shut down.

Previously reported statistics indicated BRCA1 was involved in up to 6 percent of all ovarian cancers and generally occurred only in those with a family history of the disease.

Richard Buller, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Iowa, is quoted as saying, "The study showed that a larger proportion of women with ovarian cancer has some degree of BRCA1 dysfunction than was previously thought -- by a factor of up to five times as much." He continues, "The fact that we found so many BRCA1 abnormalities through the new screening strategy identifies the BRCA1 gene as a target for new therapeutic strategies."

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2002;94:61-71

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