Changes in Fallopian Tubular Cells Could Predict Ovarian Cancer

Women carrying the BRCA1/2 mutation more likely to have fallopian tubular cells with subcellular activity levels similar to ovarian cancer cells.

Researchers recently discovered early changes at the epigenetic level in the fallopian tubes of women who carry the BRCA mutation.

Their discovery, published in Nature Communications, has the potential to create new preventative strategies for ovarian cancer and reduce the need for surgery.

In the study, researchers studied post-surgical tissue from the fallopian tubes of 56 women with the BRCA1/2 mutation and 59 women who did not have the mutation in the control group.

The researchers compared the fimbrial end with the uterine end of the fallopian tube from the same patient.

Approximately 60% of women carrying the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation had radically-altered subcellular activity in the fimbrial tubal cells, which was similar to the changes seen in ovarian cancer cells, according to the study. These changes were not seen in the control group.

Researchers also found that the enzyme activation-induced cytosine deaminase (AID) was responsible for the re-programming, according to the study.

Investigators are continuing this study and evaluating whether the findings could be used to benefit women without the mutation through a non-invasive test that could predict the cellular events.

“These new findings take us a step closer to understanding how ovarian cancers develop in BRCA 1/2 gene mutation carriers, opening up new opportunities for ovarian cancer prevention. This is vital as at present the most effective method of prevention is drastic risk-reducing surgery which deprives women of their hormones and their ability to give birth prior to the menopause,” concluded researcher Martin Widschwendter MD, MRCOG. “The next steps will be to investigate the merit of drugs that affect epigenetic reprogramming and to look for biomarkers which allow safe monitoring of the effect of such drugs."