Genetic links and possible treatment found for endometrial cancer

Queensland researchers have uncovered eight genes with links to endometrial cancer, as well as at least one drug that could help treat it.

Scientists from QIMR Berghofer have led an international team to investigate the underlying genetic causes of endometrial cancer.

QIMR Berghofer Associate Professor Tracy O’Mara said the eight genes they identified led them to a drug which could be used to treat endometrial cancer.Credit:QIMR

The study, led by associate professors Tracy O’Mara and Dylan Glubb, looked at more than 100,000 people both with and without endometrial cancer.

Professor O’Mara said they discovered eight genes with specific links to a raised risk of developing endometrial cancer.

“Some of them were already suspected of having links [to endometrial cancer] but it was a real mix – some we had never seen before, and then there were others that had been identified through other studies,” she said.

“The other thing the study has given is a directionality – it tells us that if you have more of a certain gene expression, then that also increases your risk.”

Endometrial cancer affects the lining of the uterus, and is diagnosed in about 3000 women every year, causing about 550 deaths in Australia annually.

It is considered under-researched compared with other cancers, especially cancers affecting women specifically, and there are currently only three drugs approved for treatment worldwide, with the most common treatment being a hysterectomy.

Professor Glubb said their research identified that a drug currently in development, called enzastaurin, could be applied to endometrial cancer.

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