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Researchers develop new model to identify ovarian cancer genes


Montreal, QC – Researchers at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) have developed a new model to identify ovarian cancer genes. The research was published last week in the journal Oncogene.

“Our findings now provide tangible targets for effective drug development. Up to now, there has been little in the way of treatment options for this disease, which is one of the most lethal of cancers,” says Dr Patricia Tonin, MUHC cancer geneticist and associate professor of Medicine and Human Genetics at McGill University. “This model not only allows us to identify the specific human chromosome 3 genes responsible for affecting tumour growth, but also has great potential to pinpoint genes in the entire human genome that would be most affected by this process.”

“Ovarian cancer studies have shown the alteration of hundreds of genes, she adds. The challenge is to identify those genes that affect ovarian cancer from those which don’t. Our model can be used to do just that, so that we can focus our attention on those genes most likely to affect tumour growth.”

Dr Tonin, along with Dr Mario Chevrette, MUHC molecular biologist and assistant professor of Surgery at McGill University, and colleagues at the Institut du cancer de Montral and the Centre-Hospitalier de l’Universit de Montral (CHUM), used a novel DNA transfer technique to move DNA from a non-tumour cell line to a human ovarian cancer cell line. The newly created cell line was then assessed for its ability to form tumours. Ovarian cancer cells that took up the non-tumour DNA lost their ability to produce these tumours.

Subsequent genetic analyses revealed that a group of genes located on chromosome 3 genes were responsible for converting the cancer cell line into a non-tumour cell line. In addition, specific genes elsewhere in the human genome were affected in this process, some of which were novel and others never before studied in ovarian cancer.