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Researchers find cellular changes precede ovarian cancer development

The discovery of a key enzyme could lead to noninvasive test to monitor for ovarian cancer.

By
Stephen Feller
The potential of a biomarker for ovarian cancer could help the development of noninvasive methods of monitoring for the disease, which generally is caught in later stages, researchers say. Photo by Tashatuvango/Shutterstock
The potential of a biomarker for ovarian cancer could help the development of noninvasive methods of monitoring for the disease, which generally is caught in later stages, researchers say. Photo by Tashatuvango/Shutterstock

LONDON, May 24 (UPI) -- A new understanding of the effects of genetic mutations in women may help researchers prevent ovarian cancer, according to new research in England.

Early changes in fallopian tube cells increase risk for ovarian cancer in more than half of women with BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations, which researchers at University College London say could lead to a non-invasive test to predict the disease.

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Ovarian cancer is often caught late, requiring more intense treatment, leaving little research on its development, making the new findings more significant, according to The Eve Appeal, a British non-profit that funded part of the research.

"These new findings take us a step closer to understanding how ovarian cancers develop in BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutation carriers, opening up new opportunities for ovarian cancer prevention," Dr. Martin Widschwendter, head of the department of women's cancer at University College London, said in a press release. "This is vital as at present the most effective method of prevention is drastic risk-reducing surgery which deprives women of their hormones and their ability to give birth prior to the menopause."

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For the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers analyzed post-surgical reproductive tissue from 115 women, 56 who had a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation and 59 who did not.

After inspecting the cells' epigenetic programs and both ends of fallopian tubes in each woman, the researchers found subcellular changes in 60 percent of those with the mutation that was not present in women who did not have the mutation. They also identified an enzyme that plays a role in reprogramming.

"The next steps will be to investigate the merit of drugs that affect epigenetic reprogramming and to look for biomarkers which allow safe monitoring of the effect of such drugs," Widschwendter said.

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