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Researchers develop first mouse model of epithelial ovarian cancer

Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers and their colleagues have developed a mouse model of the most prevalent and deadly form of human ovarian cancer -- epithelial ovarian cancer. The mouse model provides a better opportunity to study the cause of ovarian cancer, examine the genes involved and test preventive, diagnostic and treatment approaches that could be applied to human ovarian cancer.

"These transgenic mice offer us a valuable scientific tool that never before has been available to ovarian cancer researchers," explained Fox Chase Cancer Center's Denise C. Connolly, Ph.D., corresponding author of the study, which appears in the March 15, 2003, issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The mice engineered by Connolly and her colleagues develop epithelial ovarian cancer in both ovaries. This cancer arises in the surface, or epithelial, cells of the ovaries. The mouse model was made by introducing a genetically engineered DNA fragment into fertilized mouse eggs prior to their embryonic development. The fragment is a combination of a gene specific promoter and a potent oncogene. The oncogene, Simian virus 40 T antigen, triggers cancer development. The promoter is derived from a gene (Mullerian inhibitory substance type II receptor) that signals the expression of a specific protein found in cells covering the ovaries.

"It was critical to attach the oncogene to a regulator that would limit the cancer-causing gene's expression to the ovary, including the epithelial ovarian cells," explained Connolly. "Using this strategy, we have generated transgenic animals that develop epithelial ovarian cancer that spreads to the peritoneal organs, similar to human epithelial ovarian cancers."

In humans, epithelial ovarian cancer is diagnosed in approximately 23,000 women each year. In 2003, it is estimated that 14,000 women will die of the disease, making it the fifth most common cancer in women
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Contact: Karen Mallet
k_carter@fccc.edu
215-728-2700
Fox Chase Cancer Center
15-Mar-2003


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