According to a new study reported in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, this unlikely pairing of unfortunate life events has a common thread: a protein called MUC1. What's more, this knowledge may offer new insights into a vaccine against ovarian cancer.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists led by Daniel W. Cramer, M.D., Sc.D., a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Pittsburgh, revealed that events associated with high blood levels of antibodies against this protein generally result in lower incidence of ovarian cancer.
Bone fractures were among seven events or conditions leading to elevated levels of these antibodies. The list includes mastitis during breast feeding, use of an intrauterine device, development of osteoporosis, and several types of gynecological surgery, including tubal ligation, cervical conization and caesarian section.
"Several of these events are already know to reduce risk for ovarian cancer," Cramer said. "Our study offers a new explanation for the protection as well as other events not previously known to reduce ovarian cancer risk."
MUC1 is a protein commonly made by healthy cells that line the reproductive organs, the breast, intestine and airways. Even bone marrow cells that might be released from a bone fracture express MUC1.
Ovarian tumor cells, as well as breast and endometrial cancers, also make MUC1, but the cancer version of the protein lacks much of the glycosylation the number and extent of carbohydrate side chains seen on healthy cell MUC1. Cancer cells often shed the hypoglycosylated MUC1 protein into the blood, where the body's immune system recognizes the cancer-related protein and generates antibodies ag
Contact: Elizabeth Tait
American Association for Cancer Research