New Genetic Link Reveals Some Ovarian Cancer Passed Down by Fathers

Cancer: The facts

Cancer: The facts

The finding, which reveals that a father’s genes play an important role in a woman’s ovarian cancer risk, could change the way doctors look for and treat one of the most lethal types of cancer.

The gene, called MAGEC3, is still under investigation by scientists. A normal version is thought to be protective against tumor formation, according to the study, which was published last week in the journal PLOS Genetics. However, mutations may result in the unrestrained growth and reproduction of cells, leading to cancer.

The study identified the gene by comparing more than 3,000 grandmother/granddaughter pairs from the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

Founded in 1981, the registry contains more than 50,000 participants from more than 2,600 families with a history of ovarian cancer.

“Our study really leveraged this large familial registry that we’ve had running at Roswell Park for over 35 years,” Eng said. “The familial cancer registry is, I believe, the oldest ovarian cancer registry in the world.”

Eng and his colleagues theorized that, because women have two X chromosomes but men have only one, a mutated gene on the X chromosome would be shared twice as often between paternal grandmother/granddaughter pairs than maternal pairs.

The authors of the study “really thought outside the box,” according to Dr. Krishnansu Tewari, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and interim director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the research.

“If the problem is on the X (chromosome) and the sisters are all affected but the mom isn’t, that means it’s coming from the dad, and originally it came from an affected grandmother on the paternal side,” Tewari said.

The researchers found that women whose paternal grandmothers had ovarian cancer were twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer themselves, compared with those whose maternal grandmothers had ovarian cancer — consistent with the theory that the responsible gene was on the X chromosome.Overall, 28.4% of the granddaughters in the paternal pairs also developed ovarian cancer, compared with 13.9% of the granddaughters in the maternal pairs.

According to Eng, knowing your family history is still among the best ways to identify your risk for ovarian cancer. “One of the best preventative measures is talking with your family, knowing if you have a family history of ovarian cancer and communicating that to your primary care physician,” he said.

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