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STROMAL BIOMARKERS FOR ENHANCED DETECTION OF EARLY-STAGE OVARIAN CANCER
Early diagnosis is the key to curing ovarian cancer. To date, there are no effective early diagnostic tests and the only prevention strategy is surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes leading to loss of fertility and early-onset menopause. The most common type of ovarian cancer, high grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC), begins in the fallopian tube (FT) and quickly spreads to the ovary and abdomen. Epithelial cells that line the inner wall of the FT are the cells which develop into ovarian cancer. To date, research has been confined to studying these epithelial cells alone. However, cancer development is much more complex than this myopic focus will capture. Cancer cells are ‘seeds’ which need fertile ‘soil’ to take root and grow. We discovered that specific changes occur in this ‘soil’ during cancer initiation. The ‘soil’ greatly outnumbers the cancer ‘seeds’ thus this ‘soil’ may be detectable earlier and more abundantly than the cancer ‘seeds’. Our goal is to fundamentally alter our approach to early detection by identifying and leveraging these ‘soil-specific’ changes to develop biomarkers for the early detection of HGSC.
1) Identify specific changes in the ‘soil’ surrounding early HGSC lesions
2) Develop assays to detect ‘soil-specific’ changes in the blood of women with HGSC
This work could fundamentally change our understanding of ovarian cancer formation and lead to the critical breakthrough of finding an effective early diagnostic test to save the lives of the almost 14,000 US women who die yearly of ovarian cancer.