New Research Finds Unique Genes Responsible for Ovarian Cancer Growth
Previous research on ovarian cancer has revealed that the tumor microenvironment is significantly involved in the progression of the disease. Microenvironment involves any proteins, substances, and hormones that are surrounding the cancerous cells. In ovarian cancer, it’s been known that one of the most abundant cell types within the tumor microenvironment is the fibroblast. These are special cells that secrete signaling molecules and other chemical substances that promote tumor growth. Fibroblasts are also responsible for secreting factors involved with encouraging migration of cancer cells, giving these cells the ability to leave the initial tumor site and travel to other parts of the body.
Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease. Not only is it extremely hard to treat, but it’s also difficult to diagnose early. The majority of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed when cancer has already spread throughout the body, making it almost impossible to completely eradicate without damaging healthy tissues. Women who are met with this terrible diagnosis often have scarce therapeutic options and have a poor prognosis.
The survival rate reduces to less than 30 percent once the tumor has spread to other body parts. Thus how these tumors metastasize, more knowledge is needed about this. We can potentially develop effective treatments to prevent the tumor from spreading once we know what makes the cancer cells spread. The ability of tumor to grow and metastasize is greatly contributed by the tumor microenvironment. This led to a new research.
A team of researchers decided to focus their study on cancer associated fibroblasts because of its important role in metastases and promoting tumor growth. The gene expression of cancer and non cancerous associated fibroblasts were compared. A small non coding genetic material was found to be involved in regulating in these cells the gene expression. Scientists were specifically interested in this. We could gain a better understanding of how and why these cells migrate if we could understand in cancer associated fibroblasts what kind of genes are turned on and off. Their work was published and respected by the science community.
For the study, tumor tissue was collected from 67 women with ovarian cancer and they also collected ovarian tissue of healthy women that were for benign condition going through routine gynaecologic procedures and then they compared both the tissues. Tissue specimens were extracted from both. The focus of the scientists was on other means of regulating gene expression since sporadic mutations in DNA are relatively rare in these types of cells. The long non coding RNAs were intensely studied.
They hypothesized that the main instigator for tumor metastasis is the regulation of gene expression. Of over 1970 long non coding RNAs powerful analysis was performed by the team. They found that to cancer associated fibroblasts, 39 of them were unique. Of which many were involved in different cellular pathways. Metastasis is promoted by these pathways.
Of these regulatory RNAs, three of them were found to be involved with the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Fibroblast induces this transition and for the cancer cells to detach from its primary tumor this is the first initial step. With more advanced tumor grades others were also found to be more involved. The team used a computational approach to investigate the functions of long non coding RNAs.
New information for how ovarian cancer cells are able to metastasize was identified with the help of this research. In cancer associated fibroblasts many of these long non coding RNAs are expressed. Thus by targeting these regulatory molecules potentially new therapies can be developed. These regulator molecules can be used to find out which genes are turned on and off. To treat difficult to treat conditions, nowadays gene therapy is extremely effective and over the years it has been more and more accessible. To treat ovarian cancer, scientists may be able to find a way to use gene therapy.
Regarding ovarian cancer and how it metastasizes though this study can provide lot of information but to help those suffering from ovarian cancer much work needs to be done. It is very difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer. Moreover the signs too are subtle to detect or suspect. Hence more work needs to be done to diagnose the condition at an early stage.