Study: Breast, ovarian cancer may be linked in origin

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BOSTON – Breast cancer and ovarian cancer may have similar origins, according to a study published last month in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences by Boston University School of Medicine researchers.

“Though breast and ovarian cancer are distinctly clinically different, our analysis uncovered many overlaps, particularly with respect to genetic and epigenetic alterations,” said Dr. Sibaji Sarkar, an instructor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and an author of the study, referring to a process in which genetically identical cells express their genes differently, causing different outcomes.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide, but ovarian cancer also ranks among the top five causes of women’s death from cancer, spurring researchers to look further into the causation of the diseases.

Researchers compared genetic, micro-environmental, connective tissue cells and genetic changes common between breast and ovarian cancer cells. Among their findings, the study’s authors learned that selected genes including some tumor-susceptible genes and tumor suppressor genes are similarly altered in both types of cancers.

The study also presents a new model that explains how growth promoting genes could be “turned on” and growth inhibiting genes could be “turned off” in cancer cell formation.

“Both breast and ovarian cancers may have a similar origin. These similarities suggest that better understanding of this process will generate more effective chemotherapeutics, as well as strategies to circumvent drug resistance and cancer relapse,” Sarkar said.

Other Boston University School of Medicine authors of the study include Meghan Leary, Karolina Lapinska and Amber Willbanks. Mckenna Loncare of Harvard Medical School, Nicole Snyder from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Genevieve Housman of Arizona State University and Sarah Heerboth from Vanderbilt School of Medicine also contributed.