Dream Team Aims To Change the Face of Ovarian Cancer Research

Special Reports, Gynecologic Cancers (Issue 1), Volume 1, Issue 1

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) recently announced the launch of a new Ovarian Cancer Dream Team.

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an alliance of researchers and groups that seeks to generate awareness about cancer research and prevention, recently announced the launch of a new Ovarian Cancer Dream Team that will foster groundbreaking collaboration between the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF), Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA), and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC).

The new partnership was announced earlier this month during SU2C’s biennial telecast in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Future members of the Dream Team are due to be announced next spring, with the Translational Research Dream Team grant supplying funding for a 3-year period beginning in July 2015.

“I am so thrilled that our 3 organizations are coming together to fight the disease we all care so much about,” said Calaneet Balas, CEO of OCNA. “I believe the Ovarian Cancer Dream Team will be paradigm-shifting for our community, and I cannot wait to see what comes from this new initiative.”1

Bradley J. Monk, MD, on Trabectedin for Ovarian Cancer

Monk is a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Arizona Cancer Center Phoenix Branch.

Ovarian cancer is expected to affect nearly 22,000 women in the United States this year alone, claiming the lives of over 14,000 by the end of 2014. The disease develops in approximately 1 in 70 women over the course of a lifetime.

SU2C has been a proponent of cancer research since May 2009, when the first 5 Dream Teams were announced. Currently, 12 Dream Teams and 2 Translational Research Teams are underway.

The Ovarian Cancer Dream Team will be built upon the mission of SU2C to promote “collaboration, innovation, acceleration, targeted therapy, and translational research.” Cross-disciplinary leaders from around the globe will come together with a common goal: to change the face of ovarian cancer research.

Among the Dream Team’s collaborators, the OCRF is the third longest standing US charity to provide funding for ovarian cancer research, behind only the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense. Through 217 research grants at 65 institutions across the country, the OCRF has invested approximately $60 million toward the successful detection and treatment of this disease.

The OCNA works to raise community awareness, connect women and healthcare providers with valuable resources, and to promote the cause with lawmaking bodies in our nation’s capital. The organization aims to be a “powerful voice for everyone touched by ovarian cancer.”1

With more than 20 chapters across the United States, the NOCC is an advocacy group dedicated to the mission of saving lives, seeking to find ways to prevent and cure ovarian cancer and improve the quality of life for survivors.

SU2C’s Dream Team model is a relatively new concept in biomedical research. In a research environment where principal investigators typically compete with one another over limited funding, setting the stage for major global collaboration offers a great advantage, “providing scientists with a vital new source of financial support,” said OCRF’s CEO, Audra Moran.1

For patients with ovarian cancer, tumors may begin in 1 of 3 common cell types: germ cells, stromal cells, or surface epithelium. Epithelial ovarian cancer, comprising 85% to 90% of disease, can be divided into 2 forms: mainly low-grade endometrioid, serous, and clear cell tumors (type I), or predominantly high-grade serous tumors (type II).

Approximately 70% of ovarian cancers are caused by high-grade serous, type II epithelial tumors, which are associated with a poor prognosis. Treatment commonly includes surgery and subsequent chemotherapy, but relapse rates are high and many women become resistant to platinum-based chemotherapy.

Recent clinical trials have shown that bevacizumab can improve progression-free survival in women with recurrent, platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. The drug is approved for this purpose in the European Union and is currently under priority review with the United States Food and Drug Administration.

When detected early, the majority of ovarian cancers are curable; however, in many cases the disease is diagnosed at an advanced stage. In fact, it appears that numerous serous ovarian cancers actually arise in the fallopian tubes rather than in the ovaries, making early detection more difficult. The identification of heritable, loss-of-function mutations inBRCA1andBRCA2that predispose women to breast and ovarian cancers has paved the way for the possibility of detecting some high-risk women before cancer emerges.

“I encourage women to determine whether they may be at increased risk for developing ovarian cancer,” said Gordon B. Mills, MD, PhD, from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and member of the SU2C PI3K Dream Team. “Every individual with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should be assessed in a Genetic Counseling Clinic.”2

The recent Lasker~Koshland Special Achievement Award winner, Mary-Claire King, PhD, from the University of Washington, is an advocate for widespread genetic screening forBRCA1/2mutations in all women over 30 years of age, to promote early detection of high-risk women in the general population.

Prophylactic oophorectomy has improved outcomes for many high-risk women, but even this approach does not entirely eliminate the risk for developing the disease, highlighting the need for additional diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

In addition to dysfunction ofBRCA1/2, the majority of type II, high-grade serous ovarian cancers have mutations in the tumor suppressor geneTP53. Often fueled byBRCA1/2mutations that compromise homologous DNA repair,TP53mutations lead to abnormal DNA copy number and genomic instability. Further understanding the role of this and other biomarkers will be a critical area of future study.

Overall, current state-of-the-art in ovarian cancer research will only continue to expand with the combined efforts of SU2C, OCRF, OCNA, and NOCC in the creation of the Ovarian Cancer Dream Team.

Clinical Pearls

  • Ovarian Cancer Dream Team to foster groundbreaking collaboration between the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC).
  • Translational Research Dream Team grant to supply funding for a 3-year period beginning in July 2015.
  • Cross-disciplinary leaders, world-wide, will come together with the goal of changing the face of ovarian cancer research.
  • Recent clinical trials have shown that bevacizumab can improve PFS in women with recurrent, platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.
  • Often fueled byBRCA1/2mutations that compromise homologous DNA repair,TP53mutations lead to abnormal DNA copy number and genomic instability. Further understanding the role of this and other biomarkers are a critical area of future study.
  • The American Association for Cancer Research has announced that it is accepting submissions of ideas for a $6 million Dream Team grant for ovarian cancer research. The research will be expected to involve new immunological approaches.

The American Association for Cancer Research has announced that it is accepting submissions of ideas for a $6 million Dream Team grant for ovarian cancer research. The research will be expected to involve new immunological approaches. Proposals must outline a transformative and synergistic approach and describe how the work will be translated into the clinic. Funding will be provided over 3 years. Letters of intent for ovarian cancer research grant are due November 7 through proposalCENTRAL. Grant recipients are scheduled to be announced in spring 2015.

“This is clearly the most exciting time in history in terms of the possibilities for changing the future of ovarian cancer,” said Gordon B. Mills. “Let us together ensure it becomes a reality.”2

References

  1. Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Ovarian cancer community joins forces to fight deadliest gynecologic cancer with new Stand Up To Cancer Dream Team to launch in 2015.http://www.ocrf.org/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-SU2C-Joint-Press-Release-09-20-2014.pdfAccessed September 22, 2014.
  2. Stand Up To Cancer. The State of the Fight: Ovarian Cancer.http://www.standup2cancer.org/article_archive/view/the_state_of_the_fight_ovarian_cancer. Accessed September 22, 2014.