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New Gene Found Which Could Help in Battle Against Ovarian Cancer

New Gene Found Which Could Help in Battle Against Ovarian Cancer

A cure for ovarian cancer – doesn’t that sound incredible? With the research of a new gene, we are another step closer to that hope becoming a reality.

Known as “Helq”, the gene aids the body in fixing any damage to the DNA that might happen when cells multiply. If both copies of the gene are missing or broken more problems can build up with the DNA, furthering the chance of tumours developing.

Cancer Research UK’s scientists are the ones responsible for this exciting find, after studying Helq in mice, and they have written about their recent work in the September 4th online issue of an international science journal, Nature. Their senior author, Dr Simon Boulton, said: “Our findings show that if there are any problems with the Helq gene in mice, it increases the chance of them developing ovarian and other tumours.” The mice were also more likely to show signs of being infertile.

Dr Boulton went on to say that the next step is to investigate whether or not women with an altered Helq gene also had a higher chance of developing tumours, like the mice: “If it plays a similar role in humans, this may open up the possibility that, in the future, women could be screened for errors in the Helq gene that might increase their risk of ovarian cancer.”

Cancer Research UK’s scientists, at their London Research Institute, had already carried out studies on the Helq gene in flies and nematodes – a type of worm – and had already worked out that Helq had a part in the repair of DNA. The scientists didn’t know how differences in the gene could affect people or other mammals, so that urged them to study Helq in mice. They particularly focused on those that only possessed one copy of the gene, but they also some mice that had both copies missing.

In the UK, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women, with about 7,000 diagnosed each year, and over 50% of those cases are fatal. Clearly the chance of developing tumours can be significantly higher if there is a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer, but normally there is only a 2% chance of someone getting the disease in their life.

Dr Julie Sharp is Cancer Research UK’s senior information manager and she knows that in the fight against cancer, knowledge is power: “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.”

It has been a good week for cancer research, especially after the Daily Diamond’s recent report about a new ovarian cancer screening programme that will hopefully start soon in the UK.

It will be an even better week when we finally rid the world of one of its biggest killers.

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