© 2005-2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.
Posted online January 1, 2008, on www.jco.org.
While women who have mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer, a new study finds they may be more able to survive ovarian cancer. Israeli investigators have found that Ashkenazi Jewish women with ovarian cancer who have mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes lived longer than Ashkenazi Jewish ovarian cancer patients without these mutations. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO).
Normal BRCA1/2 genes control cell growth. Mutations in these genes, which are more common among Ashkenazi Jewish women (Jewish women of Eastern European descent) than in the general population, increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
In one of the largest studies of this topic to date and after a follow-up period of up to nine years, researchers from the National Israeli Study of Ovarian Cancer compared five-year survival between 213 Ashkenazi ovarian cancer patients with BRCA1/2 mutations (defined as “carriers”) and 392 Ashkenazi ovarian cancer patients without the mutations (“non-carriers”).
After five years, 46 percent of the carriers were still alive, compared with 34.4 percent of the non-carriers. The differences in survival were most pronounced for women diagnosed with more advanced ovarian cancer, with five-year survival rates of 38.1 percent for carriers and 24.5 percent for non-carriers.
The researchers also analyzed ovarian cancer survival according to whether women had a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Women with BRCA1 mutations lived a median of 45.1 months and women with BRCA2 mutations lived a median of 52.5 months.
What This Means for Patients
It is well known that BRCA mutations increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. These encouraging findings show that women with BRCA mutations who do develop ovarian cancer may have a better outcome than those without these mutations.
The researchers speculated that patients with BRCA mutations may respond better to chemotherapy than patients with normal genes. As researchers learn more about why these genes respond better to treatment, physicians will be able to tailor individual treatment, potentially improving survival even further.