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New research may lead to earlier detection of ovarian cancer

New research on the origin of ovarian cancer may open the door to early detection of the disease, which could lead to the development of life-saving therapies, the chief science officer of the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation said Friday.

Dr. Kristian Hedstrom of the Massachusetts-based Adelson Foundation, which helped fund the study co-authored by scientists from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania, said the research suggests the genomic roots of many ovarian tumors arise in a woman’s fallopian tubes, the tiny fibrous tunnels connecting ovaries to the uterus.

That is of critical importance in dealing with the disease that is the fifth largest cause of cancer deaths in women, he said.

In documents released by Johns Hopkins, study co-leader Dr. Victor Velculescu said that “ovarian cancer treatments have not changed much in many decades, and this may be, in part, because we have been studying the wrong tissue of origin for these cancers.”

Hedstrom said the findings — nine women were studied for the research that was published in the Oct. 23 issue of Nature Communications — showed that problem cells that developed in the fallopian tubes took about 6½ years to reach the ovaries.

“This is the first step in really getting to that early detection of this cancer,” Hedstrom said. “We saw a dramatic uptick in successful therapies for breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma after early diagnosis became possible.”

Hedstrom cautioned that more research must be done to validate the study’s findings before different treatments begin.

At present, Hedstrom said, there are “no detection mechanisms for finding early stage ovarian cancer. The majority of treatments out there are largely ineffective.”

Statistics show that today less than 30 percent of women with the disease survive beyond 10 years.

The Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation was established in 2006 as a private foundation committed to collaboration among investigators who participate in research to prevent, reduce or eliminate disabling and life-threatening illness.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

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