BOSTON - Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) have discovered nearly half of pre-menopausal women carry sub-microscopic pre-malignant lesions that may mark them at higher risk of developing uterine cancer later on in life. These tiny lesions, linked to alterations in the PTEN tumor suppressor gene, are detectable even in normal-appearing tissues, suggesting there may be a way to predict future risk of endometrial cancer even when no pre-cancers are visible. Apparently they arise naturally in a small number of endometrial cells during normal monthly regeneration.
The findings appear in the June 1 edition of Cancer Research.
"We know from earlier research that mutations or deletions in the PTEN gene can signal the earliest endometrial pre-cancers," said George Mutter, MD, of BWH. "Pathologists have always had difficulty agreeing upon diagnosis of these lesions because we lacked objective methodology. Now that we know that changes in the PTEN gene are linked to the earliest stages of endometrial cancer, and are present in so many young women, we can refocus our concept of what contributes to real cancer risk. Progression to cancer is an inefficient process that can take years. During this period most lesions disappear on their own, and those that enlarge acquire a distinctive microscopic appearance readily diagnosed by pathologists before they become a cancer. Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological malignancy, usually developing after menopause, and eventually affecting 2.5 per cent of American women.
In evaluating PTEN function, the researchers obtained 132 samples of uterine tissue and divided them into three diagnostic categories; normal (proliferative), persistent proliferative (slightly abnormal), or EIN (endometrial intraepithelial neoplasia , or clearly defined precancers). Utilizing laser capture microdissection and highly sensitive immu
Contact: Michelle Gailiun
Ohio State University Medical Center