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Is this the gene mutation behind a difficult-to-treat cancer?

Wellbeing of Women has invested £19,477 in Dr Narthana Ilenkovan’s research into what makes up the foundations of a lethal cancer

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynaecological cancer, accounting for 5% of all cancer deaths in women.

But a rare type of ovarian cancer which tends to affect younger women – low grade serous ovarian cancer – is particularly threatening as it doesn’t respond well to chemotherapy. Women who develop it have a lot of surgery, often becoming very unwell and tragically losing their lives.

This rare cancer can be caused by new mutations in a woman’s DNA. And while experts are confident that they understand how around two thirds of these mutations work, they know little about the final third.

It’s this mysterious last third that Wellbeing of Women researcher, Dr Narthana Ilenkovan, is seeking to shed light on.


Using data from 100,000 different people with cancers and rare diseases called the 100K Genome Project, Dr Ilenkovan has discovered that one gene has a mutation that could be at the root of this rare type of cancer – one they don’t believe has ever been identified before.

In her research, Dr Ilenkovan and her team are going to compare cancer cells that have this mutation with those that don’t to see if it is connected to this deadly cancer developing.

By connecting this new gene mutation to low grade serous ovarian cancer, Dr Ilenkovan could give experts something to target as they develop new ways of stopping the cancer spreading – something so many women desperately need.

Our health information on gynaecological cancers

As a women’s health charity, part of what we do is improve awareness and understanding of women's reproductive and gynaecological health.