LONDON, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Oxford university announced Friday that its researchers had found a way to detect ovarian cancer early and identify an enzyme related to the deadliness of ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer can be difficult to diagnose because it grows virtually unseen into the abdominal cavity. If detected early enough, ovarian cancer responds well to chemotherapy. However, once it spreads it becomes resistant to chemotherapy.
The results of the two new studies, published in two journals, provide new research routes for scientists trying to detect and beat the disease.
In the first paper, in the online journal EBioMedicine, the Oxford team show that levels of a protein called SOX2 are much higher in the fallopian tubes of people with ovarian cancer and also in some people who are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer such as those with inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
A test for SOX2 could not only help detect cancers early but in some cases would enable scientists to detect a tumor before it becomes cancerous, according to the researchers.
In the second paper, published in the journal Cancer Cell, the team identified an enzyme that enables ovarian cancer to spread.
When ovarian cancer spreads, it usually does so to the omentum, an apron of fatty tissue covering the small intestine. The most common cause of death in ovarian cancer patients is malnutrition as the growing cancer obstructs the intestines.
The team found that ovarian cancer could only proliferate in the presence of an enzyme called SIK2, which has a role in burning fat to produce energy that is needed by the cancer cells to survive in the omentum.
SIK2 is an important target for future treatments because it provides cancer cells with energy and also drives their increase in number, and experiments carried out by the team showed that suppressing SIK2 disrupted these pathways, which in the human body would reduce the possibility of cancer cells spreading and coming back, according to the researchers.