Government funds gene identification project

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The Federal Government has announced $3 million to support a new project designed to help women identify whether they are at risk of developing ovarian cancer.

The four-year TRACEBACK project will identify and then offer testing to women at risk of having the BRCA 1 and 2 genes. 

The project focus will be on women who have not previously been identified as at risk. 

Health minister Greg Hunt was joined with minister for women and minister for revenue and financial services, Kelly O'Dwyer, in making the announcement at Ovarian Cancer Australia’s Teal Ribbon Breakfast.

Ovarian Cancer Australia and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will partner on the project. It will proactively search for and identify women with the BRCA 1 and 2 genes mutation with the goal cancers caused by these genetic variants can be reduced.

TRACEBACK will involve genetic testing of around 1,500 tissue specimens collected from Australian women diagnosed with ovarian cancer over the past 15 years. 

The results will help women understand their risk of developing ovarian and/or breast cancer and allow them to consider taking preventative action.

It is estimated that genetics and family history are responsible for at least 15 per cent of ovarian cancers. 

Ovarian Cancer Australia expects to identify nearly 400 BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. It estimates this could prevent more than 2,000 incidences of breast and 800 ovarian cancers.

Approximately 1,500 Australian women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and it is estimated more than 1,000 died. 

And from 2009 to 2013 ovarian cancer had the lowest five-year relative survival rate — just over 44 per cent of all the gynaecological cancers in Australia.