OCRFA Research Shows Genetic Subtypes Linked to Increased Risk of Ovarian Cancer

Dr. Kunle Odunsi headshot
Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD

(June 9, 2016) A ten year, OCRFA-funded study has revealed the effect that the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, which help regulate the body’s immune system, have on how the body responds to treatment of epithelial ovarian cancer. The scientists report that women with certain types of HLA may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, but and may also respond better to immunotherapy. The results were published last month in Gynecologic Oncology. OCRFA grantee and Scientific Advisory Committee member Dr. Kunle Odunsi was senior author of the study.

Between January 2002 and December 2012 patients were tested for specific HLA subtypes in order to answer an important question: does one’s immune response to a protein found only in cancer tissue, NY-ESO-1, differ depending on one’s HLA subtype? They discovered two major findings: the first is that those with an HLA subtype known as B27 were more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in comparison to the general population. The second is that another HLA subtype, B44, had a worse prognosis.

“The clinical significance of an association between specific HLA subtypes and the risk of developing ovarian cancer cannot be overstated, as this may represent a new population of patients at risk for the disease,” states the study’s lead author J. Brian Szender, MD, MPH. In addition, Dr. Odunsi comments, “immunotherapy has emerged as a promising and powerful tool in the fight against ovarian cancer. This research offers important insights into how to understand and employ the immune system to more effectively fight this disease.”

To read more about the study, click here.

Posted on in OCRA News, Research