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Treating Endometrial Cancer

A new grant allows local physicians to pinpoint genetic mutations in endometrial cancer patients

Photograph courtesy of Washington University School of Medicine

Treatment for endometrial cancer, the fourth most common cancer in women, calls for removing a patient’s uterus, ovaries, and local lymph nodes—an intense procedure that might not be necessary for all patients. Now, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, with help from a National Cancer Institute Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant, are discovering gene mutations that make endometrial cancer more aggressive and more likely to return, possibly saving those without the mutations from being over-treated.

“Our main goal is to find strategies to identify women who have developed endometrial cancer with certain genetic mutations and develop therapies that specifically go after the problems associated with those mutations,” explains Paul Goodfellow, co-director of the Hereditary Cancer Core at Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital and director of the National Cancer Institute SPORE grant in endometrial cancer.

Goodfellow is testing drugs in mice injected with the gene mutation. “When we give a drug to an animal model and the cells don’t divide, we have a better idea if the drug will be effective in humans,” says Goodfellow.

Another part of his research is to create surveillance programs that could help detect gene mutations in patients and their family members. He adds, “We’re looking for cost-effective strategies to identify and care for familial forms of gynecological cancers to help reduce mortality and increase efficacy.”

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