LONDON— Researchers have shown that endometrial cancer — and hopefully ovarian cancer too — could potentially be detected much earlier than at present — or even prevented altogether — by looking for ‘silencing’ by DNA methylation of the HAND2 gene: an ‘epigenetic’ process which is not inherited but imposed by the environment to cause cancer. In a study reported in PLoS Medicine (http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001551) using animal models and tissue samples from patients at University College London Hospital data are presented which promise an era of more individualised therapy thanks to a more complete understanding of the full picture of gene control over cancer — which includes a far greater proportion of epigenetic processes than inherited ones. Professor Martin Widschwendter MD, who is UCL Chair in Women’s Cancer and Head of Department, and Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon at UCL EGA Institute for Women´s Health, University College London, discusses the clinical implications of the new research for detecting, preventing and treating cancer. Lead study author Ms Allison Jones describes the importance of epigenetic processes in comparison with inherited genetic factors in causing cancer. Dr Daniel Reisell MB, BS, PhD discusses the motivation of patients participating in the research on the HAND2 gene’s role in cancer.
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