The discovery of a new inherited mutation located in part of the KRAS gene provides hope for effective endometriosis screening methods, say researchers.
In endometriosis, uterine tissue grows in other parts of the body, such as the abdominal cavity, ovaries, vagina, and cervix. The condition is often hereditary and is found in 5%-15% of women of reproductive age, affecting over 70 million women worldwide.
Although the disorder has been studied for many years, its exact cause and how it develops remained unclear. It was previously shown that activating the KRAS gene caused mice to develop endometriosis. However, no mutations in this gene have been identified in women with endometriosis.
"We found that 31% of the women with endometriosis in the study carried this mutation, compared to only 5.8% of the general population," said Taylor. "The presence of this mutation was also linked to higher KRAS protein levels and associated with an increased capacity for these cells to spread. It also may explain the higher risk of ovarian cancer in women who have had endometriosis."
The Yale team is the first to identify a cause of this common and previously little understood disease. "This mutation potentially represents a new therapeutic target for endometriosis as well as a basis of potential screening methods to determine who is at risk for developing endometriosis," said Taylor.