Roswell Park among group of cancer centers working to develop ovarian cancer detection test


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Roswell Park is among a group of leading institutions working together to create an ovarian cancer detection test.

Just like a mammogram could detect breast cancer early or a pap smear could detect cervical cancer, new research hopes to detect ovarian cancer in those early stages and spare women the tough fight that Buffalo resident Kathleen Theal is currently battling.

“Ovarian cancer is a deadly cancer but if caught early, it’s not,” Theal said. “So to have this test that would detect the cancer early will save so many lives.”

Theal is no stranger to the word cancer and its affect. She was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2004. After about 10 years in remission it came back.

“It’s a cancer that doesn’t want to go away,” she said.

The early warning signs of ovarian cancer are often vague and overlooked. They could include abdominal bloating, pain or pressure. Even feeling full quickly could be a warning sign. For many women, they find out they have ovarian cancer when it’s already spread.

“Right now many patients with ovarian cancer are diagnosed advanced disease, in other words it spread by the time we see the patients in the clinic,” Roswell Park’s Dr. Kunle Odunsi said.

To change that, Roswell Park is teaming up with other institutions to develop a test that will catch the cancer sooner. The initiative is called the U.S. Department of Defense and SPORE Ovarian Cancer Omics Consortium (DSOCOC), and Dr. Odunsi will be leading the collaboration as a principal investigator.

Roswell Park’s Dr. Kunle Odunsi says “This will be a multi-year effort that will rely on the contributions and participation of hundreds of people around the country.”

In addition to serving as Deputy Director of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Odunsi is also Chair of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology, the M. Steven Piver Professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Executive Director of the Center for Immunotherapy at Roswell Park.

“We’re asking the question, ‘Can we identify STIC lesions long before they become cancer as a form of early detection, similar to a PAP smear?’ There’s a window of opportunity where, if we can identify STICs, we can potentially prevent ovarian cancer, and that’s the challenge these accomplished teams are coming together to tackle using state-of-the-art omics technologies,” Dr. Odunsi said.

In about 70 percent of cases of ovarian cancer, the signs aren’t apparent until they’re advanced, lessening the chance of successful treatment of tumors.

Roswell Park will work alongside The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Department of Defense Gynecologic Cancer Center of Excellence and Women’s Health Integrated Research Center at Inova.

“I don’t believe there has ever been such a united effort in medical science among researchers from both government and academic research organizations,” Dr. Larry Maxwell, a retired Army colonel and professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the University of Virginia, said. “This project will rely on expertise and resources that could only be realized through such a cooperative and collaborative effort. We’re able to set our sights much higher by working together and creating a force multiplying synergy.”

The first phase of work on this project is funded by a $544,360 grant from the Department of Defense.

“Our hope is that through team science, state-of-the-art technology and grassroots advocacy we will be able to dampen the impact of this very deadly and devastating cancer,” Dr. Odunsi said.

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