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Gene fault linked to ovarian cancer

Scientists have uncovered a gene mutation believed to increase the risk of ovarian cancer six fold, in a 'landmark' discovery that could aid early screening for the disease.

More than one in 11 women with the faulty RAD51D gene are likely to develop ovarian cancer, the researchers said in their paper published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Cancer Research UK said the finding raises hopes of a DNA-based diagnostic test that could help identify women with the highest risk of the disease and develop treatment plans accordingly.

In recent years several genes have been found to play a role in the development of ovarian cancer, but RAD51D has by far the biggest influence, experts said.

"We are very excited by this discovery. We're now entering a new era of gene sequencing and it's quite clear that we're going to find a lot more genes like this in the future," said study author Professor Nazneen Rahman from the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

A new class of experimental drugs called PARP inhibitors could prove to be effective against the RAD51D mutation, scientists believe.

Currently in clinical trials, these drugs are being used to treat breast and ovarian cancers caused by BRCA 1 and 2 mutations.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Nature Genetics