Duke University scientists have identified a group of genes that may act collectively like a molecular “on-off switch” for ovarian cancer.
Researchers said the findings, published in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, could pave the way for the development of new diagnostic options to identify women prone to developing epithelial ovarian cancer, as well as future treatments.
"We identified a very small set of genes that have the potential to be robust prognostic markers in epithelial ovarian cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Michael B. Datto. "We also demonstrated the utility of a novel approach…in identifying clinically relevant [treatment] targets."
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women, in part because it is difficult to diagnose early when it can be effectively treated with chemotherapy.
For the study, Datto and his colleagues examined gene samples from 285 ovarian cancer patients. They were able to isolate a series of genes associated with the development of ovarian tumors and overall patient survival. Several of the genes may also affect the development of other types of cancer, researchers said.
"This raises the possibility that we have described molecular switch genes that will not only be relevant in the context of ovarian carcinoma, but across multiple tumor types," said Datto.