Researchers at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center have identified a link between the gene PTEN, and endometrial cancer. Their findings suggest that up to 50 percent of all endometrial cancers may contain a mutation in this gene. Their study, published in the October issue of Nature Genetics, reveals that the PTEN gene is frequently defective in endometrial cancers. The researchers examined 38 tumors and found that 55 percent carried mutations in the PTEN gene. Endometrial cancer, which attacks the lining of the uterus, is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract in the United States. Despite its prevalence, the molecular mechanisms of the cancer remain somewhat a mystery. "The discovery of this mutation is preliminary, but it could represent an important step in our understanding, detection and possibly treatment of endometrial cancer," said Stephen Meltzer, M.D., professor of medicine, molecular biology and pathology and co-director of the GI Oncology Program at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. Dr. Meltzer is one of the study's authors. The way PTEN works is still being studied, but it is rapidly gaining a reputation as a common cancer gene. PTEN is mutated in a range of human cancers, including brain, breast, and prostate. Researchers at the University of Maryland are now working on larger-scale PTEN studies to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of women with endometrial cancer. The University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center has a comprehensive Gynecologic Oncology program specializing in the evaluation and treatment of diseases of the female reproductive tract including cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, uterine sarcoma, and ovarian cancer. The program is directed by Sandra Brooks, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.