BRCA Genes May Influence Ovarian Cancer Outcomes
Among women with ovarian cancer, those who have a BRCA2 gene mutation may have a better response to chemotherapy and longer survival than those who do not have a BRCA gene mutation. These results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Inherited mutations in two genes—BRCA1 and BRCA2—have been found to greatly increase the lifetime risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Mutations in these genes can be passed down through either the mother’s or the father’s side of the family. Options to manage the increased cancer risk include regular cancer screening, chemoprevention (use of medications to reduce risk), or preventive surgery (surgery to remove the breasts and/or ovaries before cancer is diagnosed).
In addition to increasing susceptibility to cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations may affect response to cancer treatment. In order to explore whether these gene mutations affect treatment response and outcomes among women with ovarian cancer, researchers conducted a study among 316 women with high-grade serous ovarian cancer. Thirty-five women had a BRCA1 mutation and 27 women had a BRCA2 mutation.
- Five-year overall survival was 61% among women with a BRCA2 mutation, 44% among women with a BRCA1 mutation, and 25% among women without a BRCA mutation.
- The difference in survival between the BRCA2 mutation carriers and the women without a mutation was statistically significant, meaning that it was unlikely to have occurred by chance alone. The difference in survival between women with a BRCA1 mutation and women without a mutation was not statistically significant, meaning that it could have occurred by chance.
- A response to chemotherapy was observed in 100 percent (all) of the women with a BRCA2 mutation, 80 percent of the women with a BRCA1 mutation, and 82% of the women without a BRCA mutation.
It should be noted that this was a fairly small study, and results should be interpreted with caution until larger studies are conducted. Nevertheless, these results suggest that among women with high-grade serous ovarian cancer, those with a BRCA2 gene mutation may have a better response to chemotherapy and longer survival than those with no BRCA mutation.
Reference: Yang D, Khan S, Sun Y et al. Association of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations with survival, chemotherapy sensitivity, and gene mutator phenotype in patients with ovarian cancer. JAMA. 2011;306:1557-1565.
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