Ovarian Cancer Gene Discovered

The Disease
Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest of all diseases that affect women, as there are few effective treatments. However, a recent genetic discovery may change that.

The Gene
U.S. scientists have recently identified a gene that seems to be responsible for the development of ovarian cancer. The gene is known as PIK3CA. Ovarian tumor cells have been found with extra copies of PIK3CA. Normal cells are genetically pre-programmed to produce new copies of themselves and then die out. This maintains the number of cells in an organ. The PIK3CA gene produces enzymes that cause ovarian cells to grow out of control and mutate. The abnormal cells do not die off within a certain period of time, as normal cells do. The mutated cells lead to tumor formation and spread throughout the body.

Unlike many genetic findings in cancer, this gene does not determine a woman's risk factor for developing ovarian cancer. The identification of the gene and its enzyme could lead to future treatments for ovarian cancer. Now that scientists have a specific enzyme that causes the cancerous growth in ovaries, they also can determine its exact shape and structure. From there, they can develop new drugs with structures that mirror the enzymes. These drugs would be able to "fit" into that enzyme's structure like a key in a lock. This strategy is often used in medicine and pharmacology to disable enzymes or other biochemicals. If it works, there will be no more usable enzyme and no more cancer.

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