Combination analysis uncovers gene loss responsible for some aggressive ovarian cancers

Investigators at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (UK) have employed a ‘revolutionary approach’ combining both cancer sample images and genetic data in order to identify a specific aberration that may be the trigger of some aggressive ovarian cancers. The study, published recently in Genome Biology, demonstrates that loss of PTEN is behind some cases of high-grade serous ovarian cancer, a finding that could be the basis of future targeted treatments.

“Very little is known about the genetic faults behind this form of aggressive ovarian cancer. But our important study conclusively proves that PTEN is a key player in this disease. The next step is to develop our approach to be able to rapidly identify tumors with low levels of PTEN, so that doctors can pick the best treatments,” commented study author Filipe Correia Martins (Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute).

The Cambridge team analyzed the PTEN levels in approximately 500 ovarian tumor samples, utilizing images and genetic data from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Examination of tumor images assisted the researchers in scrutinizing PTEN levels in the cancer cells while disregarding the other cells in the samples. With this method, the authors believe that they have conclusively proved that loss of PTEN was observed only in the cancerous cells and not the normal cells of the tumor mass.

Nell Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, stated: “We urgently need better treatments for ovarian cancer. Research like this gives scientists and doctors a clearer view of what is driving this form of ovarian cancer and has the potential to lead to new treatments.” Barrie also added that this combination method of analysis could be a major advance in obtaining tumor samples that provide a more accurate snapshot of the disease.

Source: Cancer Research UK press release