Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J. – December 5, 2019 – Investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey have determined that an overabundance of a novel gene known as ADNP in an aggressive form of ovarian cancer may serve as a prognostic tool. Rutgers Cancer Institute researcher Michael L. Gatza, PhD, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is the senior and corresponding author of the work. He and lead author Kubra Karagoz, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Gatza laboratory, share more about the results, published in the November 22 online edition of EBioMedicine (doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.11.009):

Why is this topic important to explore?

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States. High grade serous ovarian cancer is the most aggressive form of this disease and accounts for more than 70 percent of ovarian tumors. While there have been a number of recent improvements in treatment, more than two out of every three women will die within five years of being diagnosed with this disease. The goal of this study was to identify genes and mutations that are required for ovarian cancer development, progression and that will help determine response to treatment.   

How was the research structured, and what did you find?

In this study, we analyzed genomic and proteomic data from more than 500 high grade serous ovarian cancer tumors. We identified abnormal expression of a gene known as ADNP in tumors that do not respond to current medications. Experimental studies determined that ADNP alters key signaling pathways in cancer cells which causes improper cell growth. As a result, tumors that express high levels of ADNP are more aggressive and patients have a worse prognosis.

What are the implications of these findings?

These studies identified a new cancer associated gene that contributes to ovarian cancer development and progression. Our findings further suggest the ADNP expression may serve as a biomarker to predict tumor aggressiveness. 

This work was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, the V Foundation for Cancer Research and the New Jersey Commission for Cancer Research.