Women's College Research Institute

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Non-hereditary gene mutation halves survival rate in ovarian cancer

February 2014

Dr. Mohammad AkbariHereditary cancers, like hereditary ovarian cancer, are cancers that people are predisposed to because of inheriting a genetic mutation from their parents. But a new study led by Dr. Mohammad Akbari, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, suggests that non-hereditary mutations also play an important role in shaping women’s risk of getting ovarian cancer and their ability to survive it.

“Our team found that non-hereditary mutations in a gene called PPM1D not only increase women’s risk of ovarian cancer by 13 fold, but also halve the survival rate of patients already diagnosed with the cancer,” says Dr. Akbari. “Our study identifies the need to expand genetic screening methods to detect these kinds of mutations.”

The paper was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and featured in the issue’s Editorial.

PPM1D is a gene that promotes cell proliferation; it also enhances the activity of steroid receptors. But it seems that when it is mutated, it cannot be inactivated and causes cells to divide and grow uncontrollably, leading to cancer. The next steps for the research team are to further clarify PPM1D’s role in ovarian cancer and also to look at how the mutation shapes other cancers influenced by steroid receptors, such as prostate cancer.

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