An international team of researchers is bringing the origins of ovarian cancer into sharper focus.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer in American women and seventh most common cancer in women through the world. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2015, more than 14,000 American women will die of ovarian cancer.

The study was published online June 15 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Genetics. It was funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Program grant. The Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, the U.S. National Cancer Institute GAME-ON Post-GWAS initiative and numerous grants from funders, including the American Cancer Society, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and other cancer societies and organization throughout the world.

The study highlights the discovery of three genetic variants associated with mucinous ovarian carcinomas. It offers the first evidence of genetic susceptibility in this type of ovarian cancer.

The research also suggests a link between common pathways of development between mucinous ovarian carcinomas and colorectal cancer and for the first time identifies a gene called HOXD9, which turns genes on and off and provides clues about the development of mucinous ovarian carcinomas.

Most ovarian cancers have low survival rates, typically because of the misunderstanding of symptoms and discovery of the cancer in later, less treatable stages.

The analysis was based on 1,644 women diagnosed with mucinous ovarian carcinomas and more than 21,000 women without ovarian cancer. The research was conducted as part of the Collaborative Oncological Gene-environment Study launched in 2009 with the goal of determining risks of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancers have not changed much in the past 30 years and is partly from viewing ovarian cancer as a single disease. These results shed light on differences in genetic risk factors for the different ovarian cancers such as mucinous ovarian carcinoma.

Researchers are hopeful that prevention approaches will be better than finding a cure for a disease that is often diagnosed late.

Gerry Oginski
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