PAX8: Scientists Zero in on Potential Genetic Cure for Ovarian Cancer

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Cancer can be an aggressive disease. For this reason, research has been exhaustive and ongoing in the search to find a cure. Breakthroughs have been few and far between. But in the latest bit of health news on the cancer front, researchers at MIT and Harvard have found that a particular gene may be altered in ovarian tumors.

The gene is known as “PAX8.” It was discovered by a team of scientists who are part of “Project Achilles.” Project Achilles is made up of researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to identify weaknesses in cancers.

After analyzing the cells of more than 100 tumors, including 25 ovarian cancer tumors, the team of researchers reported that identifying genes like PAX8 might help in the battle against certain types of cancer.

For the project, the researchers have set out to look for all of the Achilles’ heels of cancer. What does that mean? It means the researchers are looking for genes that, when inactivated, affect the survival of cancer cells.

So far, the search has been daunting. The researchers have suppressed more than 10,000 (!) genes in an attempt to find those needed for cancer cells to grow and survive. The PAX8 gene was identified in nearly one-fifth of the ovarian tumors analyzed.

In identifying these specific genes, the investigators hope to predict the effect of treatments targeting specific genes. They also noted that, in the future, it may make more sense to identify tumors based on genetic mutations rather than their organ or tissue of origin. For example — ovarian cancer may be indentified as a PAX8 mutation rather than a cancer that originates in the ovaries.

The researchers at MIT hope to plan further investigation of the treatment-resistant PAX8 gene. This could help them discover that one gene among hundreds of thousands that is capable of neutralizing it.

While the genetic approach to cancer treatment is developed, continue to follow standard health advice: eat well, exercise, and enjoy an active and engaging social life.