News Release

Advanced-stage ovarian cancer patients with BRCA live longer, may respond better to treatment

Majority of women with ovarian cancer unaware BRCA testing is available

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Tampa, Fla. - Two abstracts underscoring the importance of testing for BRCA1/2 mutations in women with ovarian cancer were presented at this week's Society of Gynecologic Oncologists 39th Annual Meeting on Women's Cancers, by researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

In the first study, a multicenter research team led by M.D. Anderson found advanced- stage ovarian cancer patients with non-Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA (non-AJ BRCA) mutations experience longer progression-free and overall survival rates compared to those with sporadic ovarian cancer. The data confirms previous research which reported that among ovarian cancer patients of Ashkenazi-Jewish heritage, BRCA1/2 mutations (AJ BRCA) are associated improved long-term survival.

For this study, researchers examined 85 advanced-stage ovarian cancer patients with non-AJ BRCA mutations and 116 patients who did not express any type of BRCA mutation. Compared to patients without BRCA mutations, non-AJ BRCA carriers had longer progression-free survival of 19.0 vs. 27.8 months and improved overall survival of 65.6 vs. 101.4 months. Non-AJ BRCA patients had a 2.15 times greater odds of complete response to initial chemotherapy response over sporadic, non-carrier patients.

Karen Lu, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at M. D. Anderson and senior author on the study said the difference in survival rates indicate that individuals with BRCA mutations might respond better to standard chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. "Thus, it becomes increasingly valuable to know a patient's BRCA status to guide and personalize treatment decisions," Lu said.

Majority of Patients Unaware BRCA Testing Available

A second study conducted at M. D. Anderson concluded that, despite being available for more than 10 years, a majority of women with ovarian cancer were unaware genetic counseling and testing for BRCA1/2 mutations was an option. Of the 225 ovarian cancer patients surveyed, 56 percent had not heard of BRCA testing. This lack of awareness was more profound in minorities - 69 percent of Hispanic and 88 percent of African American respondents were unaware of BRCA testing compared to 52 percent of white women.

"Patients typically associate genetic testing with benefiting family members and offspring," Lu said. "Both of these studies illustrate that it is equally important for the cancer patient to get information from their doctors about genetic testing because it not only has implications for their family, but their own treatment and prognosis."

She said that more than 85 percent of ovarian cancer patients surveyed would be willing to undergo BRCA testing if it would affect their care, but the cost of testing may be a barrier. "Currently, oncologists are inconsistent in their testing for BRCA mutations. Based on the treatment implications of our findings and the surprisingly low knowledge that such testing is available, we recommend developing ways to systematically evaluate every ovarian cancer patient for BRCA," Lu said.

A family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer is reported in approximately five percent to 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases, with BRCA1/2 mutations expressed in a significant proportion of these cases.


In addition to Lu, researchers contributing to the abstract on BRCA survival advantage include lead author Robin Lacour, M.D., Molly Daniels, M.S., Shannon Westin, M.D., Larissa Meyer, M.D., Charlotte Sun, Dr.P.H., Diana Urbauer, M.S., Pedro Ramirez, M.D., Diane Bodurka, M.D., David Gershenson, M.D., all of M. D. Anderson.

Others include Veena Choubey and Stephanie Blank, M.D., New York University Medical Center; Heather MacDonald, M.D. and Lynda Roman, M.D., University of Southern California Medical Center; Jacob Estes, M.D. and Mack Barnes, M.D., University of Alabama Birmingham; Deanna Teoh, M.D. and Beth Ann Powell, M.D., University of California at San Francisco Medical Center; Rebecca Brooks, M.D., David Mutch, M.D. and Sherri Babb, M.S., Washington University (St. Louis) Medical Center; Shana Wingo, M.D. and John Schorge, M.D., The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

On the BRCA genetic testing abstract, with Lu other authors include: Lacour, Kristin White, Molly Daniels, Shannon Westin, Larissa Meyer, Catherine Burke, W.H.N.P., Kimberly Burns, W.H.N.P., Shiney Kurian, W.H.N.P., Nicki.Webb, W.H.N.P., Terri Pustilnik, M.D., Diana Urbauer, Charlotte Sun, Diane Bodurka, David Gershenson of M. D. Anderson.

For more information regarding genetic counseling and testing offered at M. D. Anderson through the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program. Individuals log onto

About M. D. Anderson

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. M. D. Anderson is one of only 39 Comprehensive Cancer Centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. For five of the past eight years, M. D. Anderson has ranked No. 1 in cancer care in "America's Best Hospitals," a survey published annually in U.S. News and World Report.

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