JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

September 10, 2002
MEDIA CONTACT: Vanessa Wasta
PHONE: 410-955-1287
E-MAIL: wastava@jhmi.edu


Listed below are story ideas from The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center useful for marking Gynecologic Oncology Awareness Month (September). Further information about ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers is available at www.hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org. To pursue any of these stories, contact Vanessa Wasta at 410-955-1287 or wastava@jhmi.edu

September 17 Commemorative Event at Johns Hopkins
An estimated 60 percent of women incorrectly assume that Pap smears test for ovarian cancer B one of the deadliest cancers -- rather than for cervical cancer B one of the most curable. Find out more about diagnosis and treatment of gynecologic cancers and hear from cancer survivors on Tuesday, September 17 at 10 a.m. Faculty from the Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service at Johns Hopkins will be on hand and survivors will sign a Banner of Hope to support gynecologic cancer research, and remember and honor patients. "Only 20 percent of Maryland women receive the standard of care for gynecologic cancers," says Frederick J. Montz, M.D., director of the Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service. "Our state has some of the worst screening and treatment rates in the country, so we need to let more women know about the symptoms for gynecologic cancers and the experts that can help save their lives."

Cancer Survivor Rock Climber Scales Utah Mountain for Ovarian Cancer Research
Rock climbers from all over the world will join Sean Patrick, five-year ovarian cancer survivor, in the HERA Foundation's Ovarian Cancer Climb for Life in Salt Lake City, Utah, September 19 - 22. The event is sponsored by Black Diamond and proceeds from the climb, featuring world-class climbers Bobbi Bensman, Lisa Gnade, Nancy Feagin, Steph Forte, Tiffany Cambell and Kitty Calhoun will benefit ovarian cancer research at Johns Hopkins. Other teams of climbers from cities across the U.S., and as far away as the McMurdo Ice Station in Antarctica will be climbing at their local crag or gym to help support the event. Says Sean, "Many women know about the benefits of screening for cervical cancer, and although we don't have a reliable screening test for ovarian cancer yet, women should pay attention to symptoms and get to their doctors." For more information or to register for the Climb for Life, go to http://ovariancancer.jhmi.edu/climb, call the HERA Foundation at 970-948-7360, or email ovcaclimbforlife@hotmail.com.

Reporter Wins Awards for Documenting Her Battle with Ovarian Cancer
Reporter Tabitha LaRue for WFLS radio news in Virginia will be awarded two Clarion Awards from The Association for Women in Communications for her online feature documenting her seven-year struggle to survive ovarian cancer. The feature includes video and narratives detailing how she discovered her disease at age 21 and treatments including several surgeries and chemotherapy regimens. LaRue will receive another Clarion Award for a radio broadcast focusing on ovarian cancer causes and detection. She recently raised more than $16,000 at an event and silent auction hosted by the Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg, Virginia benefiting Johns Hopkins ovarian cancer research. Her online documentary can be found at www.wfls.com. To interview her, contact LaRue at tlarue@wfls.com.

Cervical Cancer Vaccine Testing Underway
Clinical studies are underway of a vaccine that targets an antigen of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. The vaccine works by activating the immune system against all cells expressing the antigen. Investigators expect the new therapy to stop the progression of precancerous lesions to actual cancers. "Our best chances of curing this disease are in its pre-cancerous stages," says Connie Trimble, M.D., gynecologist and gynecologic pathologist at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and director of the vaccine trials. "The vaccine targets a common thread, HPV, present in almost every cervical cancer cell and this could be a model for treating other virus-associated cancers."

Cancer DNA Found in Blood Samples
Researchers at Johns Hopkins can detect cancer by looking for DNA shed by tumors into the bloodstream. Many tumors outgrow their blood supply causing some cancers to die from the lack of nutrients supplied by blood. When cancer cells die, they collapse and their DNA (or genetic code) gets released into the bloodstream. DNA in the bloodstream is detected by sensitive molecular technology that analyzes the two sets of genetic code, called alleles, in DNA. In normal cells, DNA has two alleles, one maternal and the other paternal. Tumor cells have an unequal ratio of maternal and paternal alleles, while in normal cells, both alleles are equal. The molecular technique, called digital single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), counts alleles present in each DNA sample. "Combined with the standard ovarian cancer protein marker, CA125, digital SNP analysis of blood samples could enhance ovarian cancer detection and diagnosis," says Ie-Ming Shih, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins pathologist and director of these studies. "Currently, CA125 alone only is useful in monitoring existing disease." Additional studies are underway to refine digital SNP analysis for ovarian cancer detection and find additional protein markers specific to other cancers.

Surgery To Remove Maximum Amount of Tumor More Important than Small Dosing Changes in Chemotherapy for Survival among Advanced Ovarian Cancer Patients
An analysis of research studies from 1989 through 1998 found that initial surgery to remove the maximum amount of tumor for advanced ovarian cancer has a greater impact on survival than small dosing changes in platinum-based chemotherapy treatments. Fifty-three studies evaluating 6,885 patients were reviewed by Johns Hopkins researchers who found better survival in patients whose cancer was surgically removed leaving as little residual disease as possible. Surgery by specialized gynecologic surgeons at hospitals with greater experience at removing the maximum amount of tumor offered longer survival to patients. Small changes in doses of platinum-based chemotherapy did not have a statistically significant impact on patient survival. "When every patient gets the same type of platinum-based chemotherapy, small changes in dosing is not as important as having the maximum amount of tumor removed during surgery," says Robert Bristow, M.D., assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study. There are approximately 800 gynecologic oncologists in the United States. A directory can be found at the Society for Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO) web site at www.sgo.org.

Related Web Sites:
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center: www.hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org
Johns Hopkins Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service: http://womenshealth.jhmi.edu/gynonc/
Johns Hopkins Ovarian Cancer Web Site: http://ovariancancer.jhmi.edu


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