Ovarian Cancer: Peter Mac Investigates ‘Exceptional Survivors’

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gene dna_oncology news australia_800x500Peter Mac researchers are part of an international effort to understand why some women become “exceptional survivors” and live decades beyond their diagnosis with high grade serous ovarian cancer.

Professor David Bowtell, head of Cancer Genomics and Genetics at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, will lead the genetic sequencing component of the study in collaboration with Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Westmead Centre for Cancer Research, the University of Michigan, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, British Columbia Cancer Agency, and the University of Cambridge.

The research, which is to receive multi-million dollar funding from a US agency, involves a genetic analysis of blood and tumour samples collected from 1,800 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

It is focused on the most common type of invasive ovarian cancer – high grade serous – and the study will involve 600 exceptional survivors of more than 10 years.

woman senior smiling 50s_oncology news australiaThese will be compared to 1200 women who had a more typical relapse and survival pattern of 3 to 7 years.

Prof Bowtell said many of the exceptional survivors were still alive today, and a better understanding of their genes could reveal new ways to improve treatment and overall survival rates.

Around 1,500 Australian women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer, and less than half (43%) survive more than five years beyond their diagnosis.(1)

“We’re looking for the genes or genetic factors that can help explain the variance in survival outcomes among these women, and how some women ultimately overcome the disease,” says Prof Bowtell, who is also Group Leader and Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

“We may find these exceptional survivor women have highly effective immune systems able to target the cancer in a specific way, an unusual pattern of mutation in their cancer, and or lifestyle factors that contribute to their survival. There is something very unusual about these exceptional women that we need to understand and, hopefully, apply to less fortunate patients.”

Ovarian cancer is the most important gynaecologic cancer in and the 4-5 th most common cause of cancer-related death in Western women. About 80,000 women die each year around the world of the type of ovarian cancer investigated in this study.
[hr] Reference: 1. http://ovarian-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics
Source: Peter Mac

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