A new study by Yale University Cancer Center identifies new genetic markers that may be used to assess a woman‚Äôs risk for ovariancancer. Specifically, researchers concluded that women with variations or mutations of the KRAS gene were more likely to develop ovarian cancer. The KRAS gene is a stretch of DNA, which is specifically designed to code the KRAS protein. The KRAS protein serves an important function in tissue signaling. In many ways, the protein is a catalyst. When it is activated, it¬† promulgates various growth factors and stimulates a number of receptors. It has been known for some time¬†that KRAS gene variations or mutations are linked to various types of cancer. This study suggests that the KRAS gene variation is specifically linked to ovarian cancer.
About a quarter of all patients with ovarian cancer were found to have a KRAS gene mutation. About 61% of the patients with ovarian cancer that also had a family history of ovarian or breast cancer were found the have the KRAS gene mutation as well.
To date, scientists have identified a number of genetic markers for ovarian cancer. Among the better known markers are the BRCA1 and the BRCA2 genes. The new KRAS marker appears to have a stronger correlation to ovarian cancer. While about 50% of women with ovarian cancer had the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, 60% of women in the same patient population had the KRAS gene mutation. It is also important to note that women with the BRCA genes were more likely to develop ovarian cancer at a younger age. In contrast, the incidence of ovarian cancer in the population of women with the KRAS mutation was more prevalent after menopause.
The Yale study appears to be great news for all women. Ovarian cancer is a particularly difficult and lethal cancer because of its apparently latent and suttle ¬†development. The sings and symptoms are not easy to recognize, and for many women, it is often too late by the time the cancer is diagnosed. This study suggests that testing for KRAS gene mutations is a significant step forward to better screen and assess women for ovarian cancer. For more information on ovarian cancer, please read our prior posting entitled Ovarian Cancer ‚Äď The Smear Test Won’t Tell You Much.