Early detection hope for ovarian cancer?

Scientists claim to have for the first time identified biochemical changes which commonly occur in the DNA of women with ovarian cancer.

Written by Agencies | Melbourne | Published:January 25, 2012 3:23 pm

Scientists claim to have for the first time identified biochemical changes which commonly occur in the DNA of women with ovarian cancer,a major finding that may pave the way for early detection of the disease.

Ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect early and once its diagnosed,patients tend to die quickly. Now,a team at Garvan Institute of Medical Research says that its research could help in early diagnosis of the disease and save lives.

For its research,the scientists used whole genome DNA profiling methods to identify a panel of six genes affected by an epigenetic process known as “DNA methylation” in ovarian cancer,the ‘Cancer Letters’ journal reported.

“This was one of first studies that used whole genome techniques to directly profile DNA methylation aberrations in ovarian cancer — with the aim of identifying diagnostic biomarkers. We decided to use new whole genome technologies — using DNA methylation and gene expression profiling.

“We wanted to see exactly which methylation changes led directly to aberrant gene silencing. In other words,which methylation changes have a functional role in ovarian cancer. We did our discovery process in cell lines and then validated our findings in 27 cancers versus 12 normal ovarian tissue samples,” Brian Gloss,who led the team,said.

The scientists claim that one of the key methylated genes they identified is a novel gene not identified before as being misregulated in any cancer. “When we then analysed a further 100 tumours,we found the novel biomarker gene was methylated in 80 per cent of them,” Gloss said in an institute release.

They say that the next step will be to see how the panel of biomarker genes is methylated in a larger cohort of ovarian tumours,and to identify the function of “the novel gene”.

“The most difficult aspect of ovarian cancer is that it is a molecularly heterogeneous disease,meaning that each tumour can be quite different from the next. We need to show,therefore,that our panel of biomarkers will be a sufficiently rigorous diagnostic tool,able to catch the requisite number of tumours,” Gloss said.

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