Ovarian cancer continues as the leading cause of death from gynecologic tumors in the United States, with an estimated 25,000 deaths and more than 14,000 new cases diagnosed this year. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is diagnosed generally at a late stage because there are no specific signs or symptoms related to its diagnosis. As a result, the cancers tend to be advanced within the intraperitoneal space, and are often resistant to drug treatment.
The success of treatment for ovarian cancer has remained unchanged over the last 30 years despite major improvements in chemotherapy drugs. Identifying the molecular mechanisms by which ovarian cancers become resistant to chemotherapy is the most important translational question and also the most effective approach to improving outcome for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Dr. Heather Cunliffe, head of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Unit at TGen, is currently conducting a study to find molecular markers that indicate primary drug resistance in ovarian cancer at the time of diagnosis. If consistent and robust biomarkers can be identified for drug resistance, then a clinical test for drug resistant ovarian cancer could be developed. Knowing early in disease detection whether a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer is not likely to respond to standard of care chemotherapy may help doctors to revise their therapeutic strategy for these women.
Dr. Cunliffe and her team are also establishing an ovarian tumor tissue bank that will be used study key mechanisms driving ovarian cancer growth. Research such as this could one day lead to earlier detection and the development of patient personalized and targeted therapeutic strategies to overcome the severe problem of drug resistance.
The Breast & Ovarian Cancer Research Unit at TGen
Ovarian cancer information at the National Cancer Institute
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