Thursday, June 30, 2016

Gene complex predicts ovarian cancer survival

Richard Morgan is the Director of the University of 
Bradford's Institute of Cancer Therapeutics in the UK
Image courtesy of U of Bradford
CANCER DIGEST  – June 29, 2016 – A new British study has identified a genetic marker that predicts poor survival from ovarian cancer. In addition, the study also identified a set of genes that help the cancer develop resistance to chemotherapy.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, examined the role of HOX genes in ovarian cancer resistance to chemotherapy and whether a drug known as HXR9, which targets HOX, could help prevent the resistance from developing.

HOX genes are normally switched on during embryo development and are involved in the rapid cell division needed for a growing fetus. Normally these genes are switched off in adult tissues, but previous research has shown that they are switched back on in some cancers, including ovarian cancer, which helps cancer cells to rapidly divide and grow.

Led by Professor Richard Morgan, Director of the University of Bradford's Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, the researchers analyzed tissue samples from 99 women with the most common form of ovarian cancer and compared these with healthy ovarian and fallopian tube tissue samples.

The results showed that little to no HOX gene activity was found in normal ovarian tissue whereas 36 of the 39 HOX genes were found highly active in tissue samples of a subtype of ovarian cancer known as 'high grade serous,' which accounts for approximately 80 percent of these ovarian cancers.

They also found that a strong pattern of activation of five of these genes was found in all of the patients who subsequently died of ovarian cancer.

The team is also conducting tests in mice of a new drug that targets this gene complex in an effort to find a way to shut down the HOX genes and cause the HOX activated cancer cells to die.

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