Researchers have identified a new gene that would help in developing potential personalized treatment for the most common form of ovarian cancer.
They have found that the gene called MAGP2 was overexpressed in papillary serous ovarian tumours of patients who died more quickly.
They also found evidence suggesting possible mechanisms by which MAGP2 may promote tumour growth.
"Ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage when it is incurable, and the same treatments have been used for virtually all patients," said Dr Michael Birrer, PhD, director of medical gynecologic oncology in the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Centre, the study's corresponding author.
"Previous research from my lab indicated that different types and grades of ovarian tumours should be treated differently, and this paper now shows that even papillary serous tumours have differences that impact patient prognosis," he added.
During the study, researchers conducted whole-genome profiling of tissue samples that had been microdissected - reducing the presence of non-tumour cells - from 53 advanced papillary serous ovarian tumors.
Of 16 genes that appeared to have tumour-associated expression levels, only expression of the gene for microfibril-associated glycoprotein 2 (MAGP2) had the strongest correlation with was clearly correlated with reduced patient survival.
Further analysis confirmed that MAGP2 expression was elevated in another group of malignant ovarian tumors but not in normal tissue.
The gene's expression was also reduced in patients whose tumors responded to chemotherapy.
"By confirming that different ovarian tumors have distinctive gene signatures that can predict patient prognosis, this study marks the beginning of individualized care for ovarian cancer," said Birrer.
The study appears in journal Cancer Cell.