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Analysing DNA in women with vulval cancer

By Dr Susan Bigby

Dr Susan Bigby has been funded $21,000 to support her research.

Dr Susan Bigby, The University of Auckland

Analysing DNA in women with vulval cancer

Vulval cancer is potentially debilitating, and the underlying molecular changes that allow cancer to develop are unclear.  Approximately 20% of women develop a second cancer (local relapse) despite adequate treatment. It is unclear if the second cancer is related to the first or not.

The research group hypothesise that some types of vulval cancer develop due to the background skin becoming genetically damaged. The group also hypothesise that local relapses represent a mixed group, with some cancers due to relapse of the original cancer, and some representing new cancers arising in background damaged skin.

The researchers will analyse DNA from 5 women with vulval cancer and hope to identify alterations in their DNA that may have caused their cancer. They will also compare DNA found in the original tumours with DNA found in the locally relapsing tumours in order to determine their relationship.

How will it help people affected by cancer?

Detection of specific alterations in the DNA may present potential new drug targets for vulval cancer, as well as help predict prognosis for people diagnosed with vulval cancer. Comparison of the genetics between primary and secondary cancers may provide a potential for early preventative intervention.