Yesterday, the journal Nature published a study linking ovarian cancer in mammals to faulty Helq genes. A team of primarily British scientists at the London Research Institute, Cancer Research UK, showed that mice lacking the gene were twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer as animals with the gene. The research team notes that confirmation of the findings in humans could lead to new screening tests.
Pittsburgh scientists had already confirmed in other organisms that the Helq gene is involved in repairing damaged DNA. The HEL308 enzyme localizes to damaged DNA replication forks and untwists dysfunctional interstrand cross-links. It thus re-establishes homologous DNA recombination.
Dr. Simon Boulton, senior author of the London study, described the conclusion as "an exciting finding because this might also be true for women with errors in Helq.... The next step will be to see if this is the case."
Ovarian cancer, "a silent killer," is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in American women. A study by Dr. Karen Lu, professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas, and colleagues released online last week in the journal Cancer has provided a model two-stage screening strategy for blood protein CA-125 to identify early-stage ovarian cancers without registering false positive results. A much larger study in the United Kingdom, scheduled for completion in two years, may confirm the validity of Lu's work.
"Ovarian cancer can be hard to diagnose early and treat successfully so the more we know about the causes of the disease, the better equipped we will be to detect and treat it,” said Dr. Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK.
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has been covering science and health for Examiner.com since the webzine's official startup. In the health area, she began investigating MERS before the disease was officially named and H7N9 human influenza on the day the Chinese announced it. She has also followed American seasonal influenza, the cancer diagnoses of public figures like Robin Roberts and Valerie Harper, and the creation, enactment, and progress of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Sandy's science articles appear frequently in Examiner's women's and sexual health columns and under environment and energy, as well as elsewhere in the digital world.
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