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Students research roots of mutated ovarian cancer gene

Three medical students at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University are studying whether ovarian cancer screening is possible through DNA collected by tampons.

Operating on the theory that cells shed by the fallopian tubes, where ovarian cancer originates, likely travel down the reproductive tract and can be collected in tampons, students Jessica Seigel, Leah Cohen and Lauren Dittman collected tampons from 30 apparently healthy women who have the breast cancer gene one (BRCA1) mutation, which gives them 40% to 60% odds of developing ovarian cancer.

The students aim to find out whether DNA extracted from the tampon samples contains mutated versions of a particular tumor suppressor gene. Finding such mutated genes might reveal that the seemingly healthy women have ovarian cancer well before symptoms become obvious — while treatment is more likely to be successful. They’re working under Dr. Sheldon Cherry, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology. 

Read more in our February issue.

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