Advances in Ovarian Cancer Research

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,588
    Dr. Douglas Levine discusses the current research being done to better diagnose and treat ovarian cancer.

    Douglas A Levine: Hi! I am Dr. Douglas Levine and I am a Gynecologic Oncologist and a scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. I am also a member of the Ovarian Cancer Research Funds Scientific Advisory Committee. Today I am going discuss advances in ovarian cancer research.

    Ovarian cancer is a difficult disease to diagnose early and it can be hard to treat if it's diagnosed in its later more advanced stages. The progress is being made every day. Ovarian cancer researchers in labs across the country are working hard to unlock the mysteries of the disease and to save women's lives. The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is one of the biggest funders of ovarian cancer research in the United States.

    Early detection is an area of research that's of particular importance to so many patients and families. OCRF researchers are involved in studies to examine biomarkers, proteins in the blood that are indicators of cancer. Recent studies have shown that some of these proteins are elevated earlier than previously thought in women with the disease.

    This is important information for researchers who are working on designing screening programs. Another OCRF sponsored researcher is looking at Glycans, small sugar molecules which could be detected in the serum of ovarian cancer patients. These Glycans appear to distinguish between healthy women and those with ovarian cancer, with a test performance that is superior to the current standard, CA 125.

    Therefore we have the potential for a diagnostic test based on a very different biologic process than the current biomarkers. Another area of research is around risk and prevention. Researchers are beginning to understand the genes that are responsible for ovarian cancer. For example, last year, researchers found a new genetic polymorphism that may significantly increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer. Like BRCA 1 and 2, but this is much more common.

    Up to 15% of women may carry the defect. This kind of information can be very useful to better identify and manage the care of women who are at increased risk. There is a lot of research now on developing new and better treatments for the disease. So-called targeted therapies are being developed specifically for those individuals who have been diagnosed with advanced disease.

    Through an improved understanding of the genes and cellular pathways that are involved in the development of ovarian cancer, researchers are developing therapies that attack the function of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. This approach to cancer therapy has proven successful in other cancer types and is likely to prove fruitful for ovarian cancer.

    One new drug Ovarian Cancer patients talk a lot about is a drug called Avastin, which has been shown to shrink the size of ovarian tumors. Research going on now is looking at the combined use of Avastin and chemotherapy. Other targeted therapies are being developed to inhibit growth factors that contribute to the spread of cancer cells.

    A group of new treatments called PARP inhibitors have been shown effective in the treatment of women with BRCA mutations. Researchers are still looking into whether they will be effective on women without these mutations. Many researchers, including many funded by OCRF are working on immunotherapy, developing vaccines or stimulating the body's own response to better fight cancer. These types of clinical trials are ongoing.

    Well, we would always like science to advance faster; researchers are making progress in ovarian cancer and in fighting cancer in general. We hope one day to eradicate ovarian cancer entirely. But in the interim, we are improving treatments so that women with this disease can live longer and better. It's organizations like the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund that are leading the charge. With the support of committed researchers and advocates, we will change the course of this disease. Thank you for watching and for more information please visit our website.