Is This 'Provocative Finding' Related to Serous Ovarian Cancer?

Maurie Markman, MD


May 09, 2018

Hello. I am Dr Maurie Markman from Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. I want to briefly discuss a very provocative paper which recently appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, entitled "White Blood Cell BRCA1 Promoter Methylation Status and Ovarian Cancer Risk."

This study, conducted in Norway, had both an initial cohort and a validation cohort which confirmed the findings. The study demonstrated that among patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancer, 9.6% of the patients had BRCA1 methylation versus a control population with about half that percentage. Both the original population and the validation population showed some similar findings.

These provocative data clearly suggest that there may be a relationship between BRCA promoter methylation status and the risk for ovarian cancer. We still have much to learn about this gene. Methylation causes something to happen to that absolutely normal germline BRCA that appears to increase the risk for high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

Again, the data need to be confirmed. This very provocative finding clearly demonstrates the importance of studying the germline, what happens to the product, and the process of methylation—which we know is very important in a number of normal and abnormal physiologic processes. This may very well be relevant to the risk for ovarian cancer.

If the data are confirmed, does this relate to potentially increased screening or even prophylactic interventions? I encourage you to read this paper, and certainly we will wait with great anticipation for follow-up from this group, as well as other groups who seek to confirm—or not confirm—these findings. I thank you for your attention.


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