Media Releases

For all media enquiries, please contact

New genetic link to ovarian cancer

An international consortium of scientists including researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), the US, Europe and Canada has discovered new genetic variants that affect the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

According to Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench, Head of QIMR’s Cancer Genetics Laboratory, “We now have more powerful genetic techniques that enable us to detect small genetics changes that impact our health.”

“The study compared the genes of 10,283 women with ovarian cancer to 13,185 women without the disease and identified five different stretches of DNA that contained single code variations – known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – that were associated with ovarian cancer risk.”

“This is the equivalent of finding five individual spelling mistakes in over 200,000 pages of text.”

“Four of the five new DNA variations were more common in women who had developed the most common and aggressive form of disease known as serous ovarian cancer.”

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death among Australian women.

Approximately 1,200 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. In 2006, 795 women died from ovarian cancer in Australia. It is often detected in later stages leading to poor prognosis.

“These latest findings raise the possibility that, in the future, women who are at the greatest risk of developing ovarian cancer because they carry these newly discovered DNA variants, can be identified and given closer surveillance to look for early signs of ovarian cancer when it is most treatable. Alternatively, preventive approaches could be targeted towards these women. ”

“This research is a great example of international collaboration leading to a better understanding ovarian cancer. These findings complement another study, in which we identified that one of these five DNA regions increased the risk of breast cancer in women who carry the faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene. These results strengthen the evidence that breast and ovarian cancer share a similar genetic basis,” said Professor Chenevix-Trench.

The research was conducted in collaboration with Dr Simon Gayther, University College London and Dr Paul Pharoah from Cambridge University in the UK, as well as many other investigators from around the world.

Two separate studies describing this work were published online in Nature Genetics20 September 2010. ( and