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Scientists unveil new genetic test that could help with treatment of ovarian cancer

Scientists unveil new genetic test that could help with treatment of ovarian cancer

The image shows a scientist working in a laboratory.— Unsplash
The image shows a scientist working in a laboratory.— Unsplash

The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance revealed that the mortality rates for ovarian cancer have declined only slightly in the past forty years since the “War on Cancer” was declared. It termed ovarian cancer the deadliest of gynecologic cancers.

Thanks to the development of an improved genetic test, a successful but pricey treatment for ovarian cancer can now be precisely targeted. Patients with ovarian cancer now have a far better prognosis due to the medication.

Since tennis legend Chris Evert announced the news of becoming cancer-free after suffering from ovarian cancer for a year, many people’s faith in medicine and science has been restored. 

Patients with ovarian cancer who benefit from the use of PARP inhibitors as a therapeutic option were identified by a genetic test created in a study at the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital. Being able to target the therapy to the patients who will benefit from it the most is crucial because it is linked to potentially catastrophic adverse effects.

The genetic test aids in identifying patients who do not benefit from the medication, preventing needless therapy and the side effects of the medication. This could also save millions of euros in public funding.

The test has been clinically authorised at HUSLAB and is used to screen all ovarian cancer patients in Finland. It has been tailored for the Finnish population. PARP inhibitors were added to the Social Insurance Institution of Finland’s list of medications for which costs are paid based on a genetic test in 2022.

“This therapy can now be administered to as many as half of the patients with ovarian cancer,” Anniina Farkkila, Specialist, HUS Helsinki University Hospital, was quoted as saying by Medical News.

It has a worse prognosis than other gynaecological cancers because of the hidden and ambiguous symptoms of ovarian cancer. It frequently goes undetected.

Following surgery and cytostatic therapy in cases of newly diagnosed ovarian cancer, the novel PARP inhibitors have demonstrated outstanding performance as a maintenance treatment for ovarian cancer.

Therapy using a PARP inhibitor lengthens survival time and increases years without the illness. Some patients with advanced ovarian cancer may one day be regarded as being cured due to this treatment option.

The test, which the researchers created with the aid of machine learning, successfully and accurately detects patients whose tumours contain specific gene abnormalities typical of ovarian cancer.

“Roughly half of the ovarian cancers have a deficiency in a specific DNA repair pathway. Cancer cells with this deficiency are unable to accurately repair breaks in the DNA double-strand, which causes the accumulation of DNA lesions,” Doctoral Researcher Fernando Perez Villatoro from the University of Helsinki told the outlet.

A defect in the homologous recombination DNA (HRD) repair mechanism is the root cause of the lesions. These particular tumour types are responsive to PARP inhibitors.

According to clinical trials, patients with HRD cancers respond well to PARP inhibitors in contrast to other individuals.

The study’s findings showed that the characteristics of the genetic lesions related to HRD vary depending on the kind of cancer. In fact, improving the accuracy of treatments for the cancer type required the development of a test specifically tailored for ovarian cancer.

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