The team, based at the University’s School of Medicine, have found that a gene called FGF1 is highly active in aggressive, advanced ovarian cancers, and it is found at higher levels in cancer cells that are resistant to platinum chemotherapy treatments, such as carboplatin and cisplatin.
As a result, women with high levels of FGF1 are less likely to respond to these drugs and have a poorer prognosis. The research, funded by Cancer Research UK and the Scottish Funding Council, is published online in the British Journal of Cancer on Wednesday, 19th September.
The researchers also found that FGF1 activity increases after ovarian cancer cells become drug resistant. By blocking FGF1 in ovarian cancer cells resistant to platinum drugs, the scientists were able to make them sensitive to chemotherapy again.
Dr Gillian Smith, one of the researchers involved in the study, said, “We’re excited by these results because they identify potential ways that ovarian cancer builds resistance to common chemotherapy drugs over time.
“Our study paves the way for the development of new tests to determine if chemotherapy will work and suggests that drugs targeting FGF1 could be effective new treatments for a group of women with a type of ovarian cancer that is difficult to treat successfully.”
The researchers measured amounts of a variety of genes in 187 ovarian cancer patients and found each cancer had a unique range of active genes. But, FGF1 appeared to playing the greatest role in determining how cancers behave.
The FGF1 gene encourages cancers to grow a blood supply, helping to fuel the tumour’s growth.
Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said, “Ovarian cancer is frequently diagnosed at an advanced stage where surgery is difficult and the disease has spread.
“The current approaches to treatment are limited – not all women respond to chemotherapy and there is no way of telling who will benefit most. This research is a step towards addressing the urgent need to develop tests that can tell us more about each woman’s ovarian cancer and help personalise treatment to save more lives.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the British Journal of Cancer (BJC):
The BJC is owned by Cancer Research UK. Its mission is to encourage communication of the very best cancer research from laboratories and clinics in all countries. Broad coverage, its editorial independence and consistent high standards have made BJC one of the world’s premier general cancer journals. www.bjcancer.com
About Cancer Research UK
- Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
- The charity’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
- Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
- Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years.
- Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
About the University of Dundee
The University of Dundee is internationally recognised for its excellence in life sciences and medical research. The University has a top-rated medical school with research expanding from “the cell to the clinic to the community”. Dundee was voted best in the UK for student experience in the 2012 Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey. See www.dundee.ac.uk for further details.
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