Molecular Fortune Telling

Vulvar cancer prognosis may be able to be predicted

(RxWiki News) Cancer of the vulva is quite rare. These tumors appear in tissues surrounding a woman's vagina, and treatment for this disease can be both physically and psychologically challenging. Researchers are trying to find ways to treat this disease - and the women who have it - more gently.

When a particular protein called c-KIT is found in a vulvar tumor, this appears to be good news. It may mean the disease is less aggressive and can be treated more conservatively.

"If you have bumps around the vagina, visit a gynecologist."

Researchers from São Paulo, Brazil conducted a small study to see what role c-KIT played in vulvar cancer. The protein is seen in other cancers, but scientists are unclear about how it impacts disease course.

The investigators studied the genetic make-up of 139 tumor tissue samples taken during a biopsy or surgery for vulvar cancer. The scientists also did complete molecular testing on 34 samples - 17 came from tumors and 17 did not come from tumors.

They found that vulvar tumors that had c-KIT indicated a outcome. Women that had this protein lived about five years longer than women without c-KIT. It also took about five years longer for the disease to return, what doctors call recurrence-free survival.

The presence of c-KIT, which was found in about 70 percent of the samples studied, was also associated with less spread to the lymph nodes.

As a result, the researchers found c-KIT to be a good predictor of how the disease was likely to behave in the future.

Therefore, the researchers conclude that testing tumors for c-KIT and evaluating the levels of this molecule may be helpful in planning treatment.

With c-KIT present, the authors believe that more conservative surgery can be used to treat vulvar cancer.

They wrote, "This will help provide patients a more appropriate, less mutilating treatment, in order to keep the maximum physical and psychic quality as possible to these women."

The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Translational Medicine.

This work was funded by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest

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Review Date: 
August 16, 2012