Ovarian Cancer Early Detection and Screening

Alexandra R. Harris, PhD

Alexandra R. Harris, PhD

About Project

Endocervical microRNA profiling for early detection of ovarian cancer


In recent years, it has become clear that many ovarian cancers originate in the fallopian tube. This discovery offers a unique opportunity to shift our focus from blood tests, which have historically yielded underwhelming results, to other more local detection methods. Natural flow through the female reproductive system carries fallopian tube cells and debris down to the cervix; therefore, we were curious whether cancerrelated changes can be detected by sampling the cervix using a technique similar to the pap smears routinely used during female annual exams for detection of cervical cancer. Interestingly, our preliminary analysis of cervical specimens from patients revealed molecules called microRNAs could accurately distinguish between patients with and without ovarian cancer. This proposal seeks support to collect and test more patient samples, including patients with early-stage disease, to build a cancer-specific signature that can be used for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Additionally, we plan to interrogate the role these microRNAs in the earliest events of cancer formation using a combination animal models and miniature human fallopian tube-like structures grown in the laboratory. If successful, these studies could produce a cost-effective, non-invasive, and clinically-feasible method for early detection of ovarian cancer in patients. Additionally, we will gain important information on how the microRNAs we have identified may contribute to the earliest events in cancer development and whether they could be useful targets for future therapy.

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