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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Cox-2 May Promote Ovarian Cancer

Finding May Explain Why Cox-2 Inhibitors Might Prevent Ovarian Cancer

WebMD Health News

March 29, 2004 -- One of the same chemicals involved in the inflammation and pains associated with arthritis may also play a role in the development of ovarian cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers say the finding may help explain why a popular class of pain relievers and arthritis drugs known as Cox-2 inhibitors, such as aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, may slow the growth of some cancerous tumors.

The study shows that when Cox-2 is overproduced it appears to promote the development of ovarian cancer. Overproduction of Cox-2 causes the loss of tissue membrane that helps anchor normal ovarian cells. The loss of this "basement" tissue increases the risk of cancer growth.

Researchers say ovarian basement membrane is also lost during ovulation, which may explain why women with frequent ovulation face a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Cox-2 Enzyme Tied to Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of all gynecologic cancers and kills more than 14,000 women each year in the U.S.

Researchers say ovarian cancer is particularly deadly because it is difficult to diagnose and is often found in the later, more lethal stages.

That's why they say learning more about what happens in ovarian cells before they become cancerous is important and may lead to better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies for the disease.

In the study, presented this week at the Annual Meeting of American Association for Cancer Research, in Orlando, Fla., researchers studied ovarian tissue taken from women at high risk of ovarian cancer who had their ovaries removed as a preventive measure.

The study showed that as the level of Cox-2 increased in the ovarian tissue, the loss of basement membrane also increased.

Researchers say previous studies have also shown that Cox-2 stimulates cancerous cells to divide and grow, and it slows prog44rammed cell death, two additional factors that speed the growth of tumors.

They say the findings suggest that high Cox-2 levels may serve as a marker for precancerous conditions in ovarian tissue. If future studies confirm these results, therapies using Cox-2 inhibitors may one day help prevent or treat the early stages of ovarian cancer.

SOURCES: Roland, I. "Loss of Ovarian Surface and Cyst Epithelial Basement Membranes and Pre-Neoplastic Morphological Changes in Prophylactic Oophorectomies," presented at the 95th Annual Meeting of American Association for Cancer Research, Orlando, Fla, March 27-31, 2004. News release, Fox Chase Cancer Center.

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