New Ovarian Cancer Research Aims to Spot Relapses Earlier

September is national ovarian cancer awareness month

Pathologist Kelly Bethel, MD

Ovarian cancer is among the hardest forms of cancer to diagnose, with no reliable screening tests and few symptoms. Most tumors are discovered at very late stages, when survival rates are relatively low. And many ovarian cancer patients do not respond completely to standard chemotherapy.

But a new research study now under way at Scripps Clinic aims to help improve the landscape of cancer care. Its goals are to help doctors better understand the genetic evolution of ovarian cancer, attempt to identify relapse at an earlier point and possibly contribute to earlier detection, when prospects for recovery are often greater.

Scripps Clinic researchers are now seeking local ovarian cancer patients and survivors to donate blood for the study. Researchers will closely analyze circulating tumor cells in the blood stream, with the goal of understanding the spread of cancer, which is the major cause of death for cancer patients.

The study is partially funded by Nine Girls Ask for a Cure for Ovarian Cancer, a local advocacy group founded by ovarian cancer survivor Joan Wyllie. It is also partially funded by a grant from the physics oncology initiative of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. September is national ovarian cancer awareness month.

“We hope this study will someday lead to a better test to detect ovarian cancer earlier, and in the short term it could potentially help guide more targeted treatment plans,” said Kelly Bethel, M.D., of Scripps Clinic, who is leading the research. Collaborators on the study include Peter Kuhn, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute and Jim Hicks, Ph.D., of Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory.

Scripps Clinic has enrolled 20 women to date and is looking for another 20 to enroll over the next nine months. The study is open to all women with a history of ovarian cancer and involves a one-time blood donation. More information is available by calling 760-492-6600.

Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.

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Steve Carpowich

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