From: Reuters
Published January 2, 2008 10:55 AM

Study links ovarian cancer survival to gene change

LONDON (Reuters) - Jewish women of Eastern European descent who have ovarian cancer and carry certain genetic changes live longer than those without the mutations, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Ashkenazi Jewish women who had changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes were 28 percent less likely to die from the disease over a follow-up period of up to nine years during the study even though such mutations increase the chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer in the first place, the researchers said.

"It's possible that patients with these mutations respond better to chemotherapy -- hopefully, once we learn more about the mechanisms of the response, tailoring individual treatment will further improve survival," said Siegal Sadetzki of the Chaim Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, who worked on the study.

Worldwide there are more than 190,000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The disease is more common in women after age 50.

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The BRCA genes, named for their role in breast cancer, help repair damaged DNA before it can make a cell turn cancerous. In people whose genetic code differs in certain ways -- those with the mutations -- the repair process goes wrong.

Changes in these genes are more common among Ashkenazi Jewish women than for women in the general population and raise the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

In the study, Israeli researchers also compared five-year survival between 213 Ashkenazi ovarian patients who had the genetic changes and 392 patients who lacked them.

After five years, 46 percent of the women with the mutations were still alive, compared with 34.4 percent of the others, the researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

And the differences were even more pronounced for women with advanced stages of the disease when it is tough to treat, the researchers said. Women with ovarian cancer often have mild or no symptoms until the disease has progressed.

"These findings persisted after controlling for other factors that influence ovarian cancer survival, such as patient age and some biological features of the tumor," the researchers said in a statement.

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Will Dunham)

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