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Researchers among various programs at Johns Hopkins, including those in the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program, the Richard W. TeLinde Gynecologic Pathology Research Program, and the Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service are working on revealing the molecular pathways that have gone awry in ovarian cancer cells to find new ways to detect the disease earlier, prevent it and improve treatment. Scientists with expertise in breast and ovarian cancer collaborate to leverage their shared knowledge studying molecular abnormalities, such as the mutations in BRCA genes, common to both types of cancer.
High Impact Research
Among the notable examples of ovarian cancer research, scientists at the Kimmel Cancer Center used cervical fluid obtained during routine Pap tests to detect ovarian and endometrial cancers. In a pilot study, the “PapGene” test, which relies on genomic sequencing of cancer-specific mutations identified by researchers from Johns Hopkins and other institutions. As reported in studies of the relatively non-invasive test, it can accurately detect all endometrial cancers and nearly half ovarian cancers. The scientists are now improving technical aspects of the test to further enhance the detection rate and to eventually commercialize the test. Johns Hopkins researchers in the TeLinde Laboratory have provided new evidence that the majority of ovarian cancers are “imported” diseases migrating from the fallopian tube and endometrium, rather than primarily from the ovary.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins are studying the effectiveness of detecting ovarian cancer through the PapGene and blood tests (also called “liquid biopsy”). These tests are being designed to determine whether both strategies may be useful as an ultimate screening tool for ovarian cancer, at least for women at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Drugs called SYK inhibitors, which have been used for autoimmune diseases, also are being studied by Johns Hopkins scientists for their potential ability to make ovarian cancers more sensitive to chemotherapy. Clinical trials are planned.
Investigators at Johns Hopkins are studying how to harness DNA damage defects occurring only in ovarian cancer cells but not in normal cells to develop better treatment plans for patients with ovarian cancer. They are also determining whether combinations of different treatments including immunotherapy and targeting cancer molecules can offer an effective way to treat recurrent ovarian cancer.
Using tissue samples from ovarian cancer patients who underwent surgery and received chemotherapy, scientists at Johns Hopkins are studying gene and proteome signatures that may predict which cancers are likely to be more aggressive and resist therapy. The scientists intend to develop new classifications for ovarian cancer based on the genomic and proteomic data, which may help clinicians to treat the disease more precisely and effectively.