SU2C Announces the Formation of a New Translational Research Ovarian Cancer “Dream Team”

Ovarian Cancer Community Joins Forces to Fight Deadliest Gynecologic Cancer. The New Stand Up To Cancer Dream Team Will Launch in 2015.

The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Team Up to Fund New Translational Research Ovarian Cancer “Dream Team.”

 

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A groundbreaking collaboration is underway among three national ovarian cancer organizations: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF), Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA), and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC). In partnership with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), this group will fund a new Ovarian Cancer Dream Team dedicated to piloting leading-edge, ovarian cancer research that will help patients and save lives.

This partnership was announced tonight by actor Pierce Brosnan on the Stand Up To Cancer’s biennial telecast, and in recognition of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The SU2C-OCRF-OCNA-NOCC Translational Research Dream Team grant will provide funding, over a three-year period, for research associated with this insidious disease.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all the gynecologic cancers. Almost 22,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, and more than 14,000 women will lose their lives to the disease. By collaborating to fund an Ovarian Cancer Dream Team, OCRF, OCNA and NOCC, with SU2C, will further research in the field that can lead to new treatments and improved patient outcomes.

Later this month, SU2C, through its science partner the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), will issue a “Call for Ideas” from researchers and scientists worldwide. The selected Dream Team will be announced next spring, with research beginning in July 2015.

OCRF“Ovarian Cancer Research Fund has been the leading nonprofit funder of ovarian cancer research for years, and this new collaboration is a wonderful way to mark our 20th anniversary,” said Audra Moran, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. “We are excited that the Dream Team grant will continue our long tradition of supporting the most innovative research in the field, while providing scientists with a vital new source of financial support.”

OCNA1Calaneet Balas, CEO of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, said: “I am so thrilled that our three organizations are coming together to fight the disease we all care so much about. 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. We’re proud of the work the Alliance has done to secure federal research funding on behalf of all women, but the Dream Team gives us new opportunities for collaboration and innovation.”

NOCC - Logo“We are both proud and excited to join in supporting the Ovarian Cancer Dream Team, the first-ever collaboration of such efforts,” said David Barley, CEO of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. “We are looking forward to being instrumental in furthering ovarian cancer research. The impacts on families and communities continue to make ovarian cancer “More Than a Woman’s Disease®.” By working together we hope to make a difference in the lives of everyone we touch.”

About the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF), founded in 1994, is the oldest and largest charity in the United States funding ovarian cancer research, and ranks third in overall ovarian cancer research funding only after the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Its mission is to fund scientific research that leads to more effective identification, treatment, and ultimately a cure for ovarian cancer, as well as related educational and support initiatives. OCRF has invested nearly $60 million in ovarian cancer research through 217 grants to scientists at 65 leading medical centers in the United States. OCRF continues to take the lead in funding the best and most promising ovarian cancer research while supporting women and their loved ones affected by this terrible disease in our quest to end it. For more information, please visit www.ocrf.org.

About the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is a powerful voice for everyone touched by ovarian cancer. We connect survivors, women at risk, caregivers, and health providers with the information and resources they need. We ensure that ovarian cancer is a priority for lawmakers and agencies in Washington, DC, and throughout the country. We help our community raise their voices on behalf of every life that has been affected by this disease. For more information, please visit: www.ovariancancer.org

About the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
Since its inception in 1995, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) has been committed to raising awareness, promoting education, and funding research in support of women, families, and communities touched by ovarian cancer. NOCC is well-established as an important national advocate for patients and families struggling with ovarian cancer. NOCC remains steadfast in its mission to save lives by fighting tirelessly to prevent and cure ovarian cancer, and to improve the quality of life for survivors. For more information, please visit: www.ovarian.org.

About Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who utilize the industry’s resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and to increase awareness about cancer prevention as well as progress being made in the fight against the disease. For more information, please visit: www.standup2cancer.org

U.S. President Barack Obama Proclaims September 2014 As National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month — What Should You Know?

Today, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2014 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. “This month, our Nation stands with everyone who has been touched by this disease, and we recognize all those committed to advancing the fight against this cancer through research, advocacy, and quality care. Together, let us renew our commitment to reducing the impact of ovarian cancer and to a future free from cancer in all its forms.”

WhiteHouse-LogoToday, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2014 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The Presidential Proclamation is reproduced in full below.

During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ will continue to honor the women who have lost their lives to the disease (including our own Elizabeth “Libby” Remick), support those who are currently battling the disease, and celebrate with those who have beaten the disease. This month, medical doctors, research scientists, and ovarian cancer advocates renew their commitment to develop a reliable early screening test, improve current treatments, discover new groundbreaking therapies, and ultimately, defeat the most lethal gynecologic cancer.

Let us begin this month with several important facts relating to ovarian cancer. Please take time to review these facts — they may save your life or that of a loved one.

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Ovarian Cancer Facts

Lethality. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

Statistics. In 2014, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there will be approximately 21,980 new ovarian cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. ACS estimates that 14,270 U.S. women will die from the disease, or about 39 women per day or 1-to-2 women every hour. This loss of life is equivalent to 28 Boeing 747 jumbo jet crashes with no survivors — each and every year.

Signs & Symptoms. Ovarian cancer is not a “silent” disease; it is a “subtle” disease. Recent studies indicate that women with ovarian cancer are more like to experience four persistent, nonspecific symptoms as compared with women in the general population, such as (i) bloating, (ii) pelvic or abdominal pain, (iii) difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or (iv) urinary urgency or frequency. Women who experience such symptoms daily for more than a few weeks should seek prompt medical evaluation. Note: Several other symptoms have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. However, these additional symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women within the general population who do not have the disease.

Age. Although the median age of a woman with ovarian cancer at initial diagnosis is 63, the disease cancer can afflict adolescent, young adult, and mature women. Ovarian cancer does not discriminate based upon age.

Prevention. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, long-term use of oral contraceptives, and tubal ligation reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Risk Factors.

  • BRCA Gene Mutations. Women who have had breast cancer, or who have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer may have increased risk. Women who test positive for inherited mutations in the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene have an increased lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer. A women can inherit a mutated BRCA gene from her mother or father. Women of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish ancestry are at higher risk (1 out of 40) for inherited BRCA gene mutations. Studies suggest that preventive surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes in women possessing BRCA gene mutations can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Lynch Syndrome. An inherited genetic condition called “hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer” (also called “Lynch syndrome“), which significantly increases the risk of colon/rectal cancer (and also increases the risk of other types of cancers such as endometrial (uterine), stomach, breast, small bowel (intestinal), pancreatic, urinary tract, liver, kidney, and bile duct cancers), also increases ovarian cancer risk.
  • Hormone Therapy. The use of estrogen alone menopausal hormone therapy may increase ovarian cancer risk. The longer estrogen alone replacement therapy is used, the greater the risk may be. The increased risk is less certain for women taking both estrogen and progesterone, although a large 2009 Danish study involving over 900,000 women suggests that combination hormone therapy may increase risk. Because some health benefits have been identified with hormone replacement therapy, a women should seek her doctor’s advice regarding risk verses benefit based on her specific factual case.
  • Smoking. Smoking has been linked to an increase in mucinous epithelial ovarian cancer.

Early Detection. There is no reliable screening test for the detection of early stage ovarian cancer. Pelvic examination only occasionally detects ovarian cancer, generally when the disease is advanced. A Pap smear cannot detect ovarian cancer. However, the combination of a thorough pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for the tumor marker CA-125 may be offered to women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer and to women who have persistent, unexplained symptoms like those listed above. This early detection strategy has shown promise in a 2013 University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center early detection study involving over 4,000 women. Importantly, another large ovarian cancer screening trial that is using similar early detection methods is under way in the United Kingdom, with results expected in 2015. The U.K. study is called “UKCTOCS” (UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening) and involves over 200,000 women aged 50-74 years.

Treatment.

  • Treatment includes surgery and usually chemotherapy.
  • Surgery usually includes removal of one or both ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy), the uterus (hysterectomy), and the omentum (fatty tissue attached to some of the organs in the belly), along with biopsies of the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) and peritoneal cavity fluid.
  • In younger women with very early stage tumors who wish to have children, removal of only the involved ovary and fallopian tube may be possible.
  • Among patients with early ovarian cancer, complete surgical staging has been associated with better outcomes.
  • For women with advanced disease, surgically removing all abdominal metastases larger than one centimeter (debulking) enhances the effect of chemotherapy and helps improve survival.
  • For women with stage III ovarian cancer that has been optimally debulked, studies have shown that chemotherapy administered both intravenously and directly into the abdomen (intraperitoneally) improves survival.
  • Patients can enter clinical trials at the start of, during the course of, and even after, their ovarian cancer treatment(s).
  • New types of treatment are being tested in ovarian and solid tumor clinical trials, including “biological therapy” and “targeted therapy.” For example, these types of treatment can exploit biological/molecular characteristics unique to an ovarian cancer patient’s specific tumor classification, or better “train” the patient’s own immune system to identify and attack her tumor cells, without harming normal cells.

Survival. 

  • If diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5-year ovarian cancer survival rate is 92%; however, only about 15% of all cases are detected at an early stage, usually fortuitously during another medical procedure. The majority of cases (61%) are diagnosed at a distant or later stage of the disease.
  • Overall, the 1-, 5-, and 10-year relative survival of ovarian cancer patients is 75%, 44%, and 34%, respectively.
  • The 10-year relative survival rate for all disease stages combined is only 38%.
  • Relative survival varies by age; women younger than 65 are twice as likely to survive 5 years (56%) following diagnosis as compared to women 65 and older (27%).

Help Spread the Word to “B-E-A-T” Ovarian Cancer

Please help us “B-E-A-T” ovarian cancer by spreading the word about the early warning signs & symptoms of the disease throughout the month of September.

beatlogo_308x196B = bloating that is persistent and does not come and go

E = eating less and feeling fuller

A =abdominal or pelvic pain

T = trouble with urination (urgency or frequency)

Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. As noted above, early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.

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The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 29, 2014

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

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Ovarian cancer is the most deadly of all female reproductive system cancers. This year nearly 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this cancer, and more than 14,000 will die from it. The lives of mothers and daughters will be taken too soon, and the pain of this disease will touch too many families. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we honor the loved ones we have lost to this disease and all those who battle it today, and we continue our work to improve care and raise awareness about ovarian cancer.

When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective and the chances for recovery are greatest. But ovarian cancer is difficult to detect early — there is no simple and reliable way to screen for this disease, symptoms are often not clear until later stages, and most women are diagnosed without being at high risk. That is why it is important for all women to pay attention to their bodies and know what is normal for them. Women who experience unexplained changes — including abdominal pain, pressure, and swelling — should talk with their health care provider. To learn more about the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer, Americans can visit www.Cancer.gov.

Regular health checkups increase the chance of early detection, and the Affordable Care Act expands this critical care to millions of women. Insurance companies are now required to cover well-woman visits, which provide women an opportunity to talk with their health care provider, and insurers are prohibited from charging a copayment for this service.

For the thousands of women affected by ovarian cancer, the Affordable Care Act also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition, such as cancer or a family history of cancer; prevents insurers from denying participation in an approved clinical trial for any life-threatening disease; and eliminates annual and lifetime dollar limits on coverage. And as we work to ease the burden of ovarian cancer for today’s patients, my Administration continues to invest in the critical research that will lead to earlier detection, improved care, and the medical breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Ovarian cancer and the hardship it brings have affected too many lives. This month, our Nation stands with everyone who has been touched by this disease, and we recognize all those committed to advancing the fight against this cancer through research, advocacy, and quality care. Together, let us renew our commitment to reducing the impact of ovarian cancer and to a future free from cancer in all its forms.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2014 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, health care providers, and research institutions to raise ovarian cancer awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives. I also urge women across our country to talk to their health care providers and learn more about this disease.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

BARACK OBAMA

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Sources:

  • Cancer Facts & Figures 2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2014 [PDF file].
  • Presidential Proclamation — National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, 2013, Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, August 29, 2014.

National Women’s Health Week — Learn, Spread the Word & Join!

National Women’s Health Week begins on Mother’s Day each year. During this week, individuals, families, communities, and others work to help women learn how to achieve longer, healthier, and safer lives.

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Beginning with Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 11, we celebrate National Women’s Health Week by encouraging the women in our lives – our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and colleagues – to take steps to live healthier, happier lives.

We know that women are often the ones who make sure that everyone – everyone else, that is – in our families are cared for. But too often, women put their own health last.

But the reality is unless you take care of yourself, you cannot really take care of your family. That means eating right, exercising, quitting smoking, and getting the care necessary to stay healthy. In fact, you can now use websites, apps, and mobile devices to help you track and manage your health.

Preventive services are critical to helping us stay healthy, but unfortunately they have not always been affordable. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it is a new day for women’s health by making it easier for women to take control of their own health.

For many women, preventive services like mammograms, birth control, smoking cessation services, and annual well-woman visits are now available without any out-of-pocket costs. Also, as of 2014, the Affordable Care Act requires most insurers to cover maternity benefits as part of the package of essential health benefits.

And insurers can no longer refuse women coverage just because they’re battling cancer or have another pre-existing condition – and they won’t be allowed to charge women more just because they’re women. Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.

It’s not just women with job-based insurance who are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act. The law has greatly expanded access to quality, affordable health coverage to uninsured women and men. More than 8 million Americans – more than 4.3 million of whom are women – have enrolled in affordable health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Open enrollment begins again in November.

Learn

On Sunday, May 11, 2014, President Barrack Obama proclaimed May 11 through 17, National’s Women’s Health Week. National Women’s Health Week is an observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH). The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority. National Women’s Health Week also serves as a time to help women understand what it means to be well.

What does it mean to be a well woman?

It’s a state of mind. It’s being as healthy as you can be. And, most importantly, it’s about taking steps to improve your physical and mental health:

Check out the National Women’s Health Week infographics.

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Download OWH’s National Women’s Health Week infographics.

How can you celebrate National Women’s Health Week?

The OWH invites women across the country to join in the celebration:

Download a copy of the National Women’s Health Week fact sheet.

Spread the Word

Spread the word about National Women’s Health Week to your mom, sisters, daughters, friends, and coworkers! Invite them to join in the celebration by using the resources below.

Join

Join or plan a Meetup

Join us in celebrating National Women’s Health Week by hosting or attending an event in your area. This year, we’re asking you to register your National Women’s Health Week event with Meetup Everywhere.

Join the President’s Challenge

The President’s Challenge is the premier program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition administered through a co-sponsorship agreement with the Amateur Athletic Union. The President’s Challenge helps people of all ages and abilities increase their physical activity and improve their fitness through research-based information, easy-to-use tools, and friendly motivation.

NWHW-infographic-well-woman-visitCelebrate National Women’s Checkup Day 

National Women’s Checkup Day is led by OWH. Our goal is to encourage women to schedule an annual well-woman visit.

A well-woman visit is a checkup. It’s a time to see your health care provider to:

  • Discuss your health habits and family history.
  • Get or schedule necessary screenings and exams.
  • Set health goals.
  • Schedule your well-woman visit every year.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s considered a preventive service and must be covered by most health plans at no cost to you. During your well-woman visit, you can receive many screenings free of charge, such as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, cervical cancer, and more. And if your health care provider says you need more than one well-woman visit in a year, the additional visits are also covered.

When is National Women’s Checkup Day?

The 12th annual National Women’s Checkup Day is today, Monday, May 12, 2014, during National Women’s Health Week.

Why is it important for women to participate in this effort?

Well-woman visits help you get the preventive care you need, including screenings. Screenings can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. Screenings can also identify other problems and help lower your risk for many conditions, such as heart disease. Under the Affordable Care Act, many women can receive these services without paying a deductible or copay.

How can you participate in this important event?

There are several ways to participate in National Women’s Checkup Day:

 

Glutamine Ratio is Key Ovarian Cancer Indicator

Glutamine plays an important role in cellular growth in several cancers. A Rice University-led study shows how ovarian cancer metabolism changes between early and late stages. In this study, a further link between glutamine dependency and tumor invasiveness is established in ovarian cancer.

A Rice University-led analysis of the metabolic profiles of hundreds of ovarian tumors has revealed a new test to determine whether ovarian cancer cells have the potential to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. The study also suggests how ovarian cancer treatments can be tailored based on the metabolic profile of a particular tumor.

The research, which appears online this week in Molecular Systems Biology, was conducted at the Texas Medical Center in Houston by researchers from Rice University, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the Baylor College of Medicine.

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Deepak Nagrath, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University

“We found a striking difference between the metabolic profiles of poorly aggressive and highly aggressive ovarian tumor cells, particularly with respect to their production and use of the amino acid glutamine,” said lead researcher Deepak Nagrath Ph.D. of Rice University. “For example, we found that highly aggressive ovarian cancer cells are glutamine-dependent, and in our laboratory studies, we showed that depriving such cells of external sources of glutamine — as some experimental drugs do — was an effective way to kill late-stage cells.

“The story for poorly aggressive cells was quite different,” said Nagrath, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice. “These cells use an internal metabolic pathway to produce a significant portion of the glutamine that they consume, so a different type of treatment — one aimed toward internal glutamine sources — will be needed to target cells of this type.”

The research is part of a growing effort among cancer researchers worldwide to create treatments that target the altered metabolism of cancer cells. It has long been known that cancer cells adjust their metabolism in subtle ways that allow them to proliferate faster and survive better. In 1924, Otto Warburg showed that cancer cells produced far more energy from glycolysis than did normal cells. The Nobel Prize-winning discovery became known as the “Warburg effect,” and researchers long believed that all cancers behaved in this way. Intense research in recent decades has revealed a more nuanced picture.

“Each type of cancer appears to have its own metabolic signature,” Nagrath said. “For instance, kidney cancer does not rely on glutamine, and though breast cancer gets some of its energy from glutamine, it gets even more from glycolysis. For other cancers, including glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer, glutamine appears to be the primary energy source.”

Rice University Researchers

Researchers at Rice University’s Laboratory for Systems Biology of Human Diseases analyzed the metabolic profiles of hundreds of ovarian tumors and discovered a new test to determine whether ovarian cancer cells have the potential to metastasize. Study co-authors include, from left, Julia Win, Stephen Wahlig, Deepak Nagrath, Hongyun Zhao, Lifeng Yang and Abhinav Achreja.

Nagrath, director of Rice University’s Laboratory for Systems Biology of Human Diseases, said the new metabolic analysis indicates that ovarian cancer may be susceptible to multidrug cocktails, particularly if the amounts of the drugs can be tailored to match the metabolic profile of a patient’s tumor.

The research also revealed a specific biochemical test that pathologists could use to guide such treatments. The test involves measuring the ratio between the amount of glutamine that a cell takes up from outside and the amount of glutamine it makes internally.

“This ratio proved to be a robust marker for prognosis,” said University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center co-author Anil Sood, M.D., Professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and co-director of the Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNA. “A high ratio was directly correlated to tumor aggression and metastatic capability. Patients with this profile had the worst prognosis for survival.”

The three-year study included cell culture studies at Rice as well as a detailed analysis of gene-expression profiles of more than 500 patients from the Cancer Genome Atlas and protein-expression profiles from about 200 M.D. Anderson patients.

“The enzyme glutaminase is key to glutamine uptake from outside the cell, and glutaminase is the primary target that everybody is thinking about right now in developing drugs,” Nagrath said. “We found that targeting only glutaminase will miss the less aggressive ovarian cancer cells because they are at a metabolic stage where they are not yet glutamine-dependent.”

Lifeng

Lifeng Yang, Study Lead Author & Graduate Student, Systems Biology of Human Diseases, Rice University

Rice University graduate student Lifeng Yang, lead author of the study, designed a preclinical experiment to test the feasibility of a multidrug approach, involving the use of a JAK inhibitor and a glutaminase inhibitor. This “drug cocktail” approach inhibited the early stage production of internal glutamine, while also limiting the uptake of external glutamine.

“That depleted all sources of glutamine for the cells, and we found that cell proliferation decreased significantly,” Yang said.

Nagrath said the study also revealed another key finding — a direct relationship between glutamine and an ovarian cancer biomarker called “STAT3” (Signal Transducer And Activator Of Transcription 3).

“A systems-level understanding of the interactions between metabolism and signaling is vital to developing novel strategies to tackle cancer,” said M.D. Anderson co-author Prahlad Ram Ph.D., Associate Professor of Systems Biology and co-director of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Systems Biology Program. “STAT3 is the primary marker that is used today to ascertain malignancy, tumor aggression and metastasis in ovarian cancer.”

Nagrath said, “The higher STAT3 is, the more aggressive the cancer. For the first time, we were able to show how glutamine regulates STAT3 expression through a well-known metabolic pathway called the TCA cycle, which is also known as the ‘Krebs cycle.’”

Nagrath said the research is ongoing. Ultimately, Dr. Nagrath hopes the investigations will lead to new treatment regimens for cancer as well as a better understanding of the role of cancer-cell metabolism in metastasis and drug resistance.

Co-authors include Hongyun Zhao, Stephen Wahlig, Abhinav Achreja and Julia Win (all affiliated with Rice University); Tyler Moss, Lingegowda Mangala, Guillermo Armaiz-Pena, Dahai Jiang, Rajesha Roopaimoole, Cristian Rodriguez-Aguayo, Imelda Mercado-Uribe, Gabriel Lopez-Berestein and Jinsong Liu (all affiliated with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center); Juan Marini of Baylor College of Medicine; and Takashi Tsukamoto of Johns Hopkins University.

The research was supported by seed funding from (i) the Collaborative Advances in Biomedical Computing Program at Rice Univesity’s Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology, (ii) Rice University’s John and Ann Doerr Fund for Computational Biomedicine, (iii) the Odyssey Fellowship Program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, (iv) the estate of C.G. Johnson Jr., (v) the National Institutes of Health, (vi) the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, (v) the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, (vi) the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program, (vii) the Gilder Foundation, and (viii) the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Sources: 

Ovarian Cancer Cells Are More Aggressive On Soft Tissues

When ovarian cancer spreads from the ovaries it almost always does so to a layer of fatty tissue that lines the gut. A new study has found that ovarian cancer cells are more aggressive on these soft tissues due to the mechanical properties of this environment. The finding is contrary to what is seen with other malignant cancer cells that seem to prefer stiffer tissues.

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Professor Michelle Dawson and graduate student Daniel McGrail used traction force microscopy to measure the forces exerted by cancer cells on soft and stiff surfaces. (Photo Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Institute of Technology)

“What we found is that there are some cancer cells that respond to softness as opposed to stiffness,” said Michelle Dawson, an assistant professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Ovarian cancer cells that are highly metastatic respond to soft environments by becoming more aggressive.”

Ovarian cancer cells spread, or metastasize, by a different method than other cancer cells. Breast cancer cells, for example, break off from a solid tumor and flow through the blood until they arrest in small blood vessels. The cancer cells then penetrate the vessel surface to form a tumor. Because ovarian tumors are in the abdomen, these cancer cells are shed into the surrounding fluid and not distributed through the blood. They must be able to adhere directly to the fatty tissue that lines the gut, called the omentum, to begin forming a tumor. The new study discovered details about how ovarian cancer cells seem to prefer the mechanical properties of this soft tissue.

The study was published in a recent advance online edition of the Journal of Cell Science and was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Georgia Tech and Emory Center for Regenerative Medicine.

The research team, led by Daniel McGrail, a graduate student in the Dawson lab, found that ovarian cancer cells in vitro were more adherent to a layer of soft fat cells than a layer of stiffer bone cells, and that this behavior was also repeated using gels of similar rigidities.

“All the behaviors that we associate with breast cancer cells on these more rigid environments are flipped for ovarian cancer cells,” Dawson said.

After adhering to these soft surfaces, metastatic ovarian cancer cells became more aggressive. Their proliferation increased and they were less responsive to chemotherapeutics. The ovarian cancer cells were also more motile on soft surfaces, moving nearly twice as fast as on rigid surfaces.

The team also found that less aggressive cells that do not metastasize do not exhibit any of these changes.

The researchers used techniques that haven’t been traditionally used in the study of ovarian cancer. They measured the force exerted by the cells by tracking the displacement of beads in the environment around the cells. The researchers found that the metastatic cells increased their traction forces – used to generate motion – by three-fold on soft surfaces, but no such change was present in the less aggressive cells.

“We think the behavior that metastatic ovarian cancer cells exert on these soft surfaces is representative of the mechanical tropism that they have for these softer tissues in the gut,” Dawson said.

In future work, the researchers will investigate whether ovarian cancer cells have some natural inclination towards this uniquely more aggressive behavior in softer environments.

“We’re trying to find out whether there is some internal programming that leads to this aggressive behavior,” Dawson said.

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 1032527, and the Georgia Tech and Emory Center for Regenerative Medicine under award number 1411304. Any conclusions or opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the sponsoring agencies.

Source:  McGrail DJ, et al., The malignancy of metastatic ovarian cancer cells is increased on soft matrices through a mechanosensitive Rho-ROCK pathway. (Journal of Cell Science, 2014). http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/?jcs.144378.

Broadway Star Valisia LeKae Debuts Ovarian Cancer PSA in Times Square

 “God has given me another role to play and like all my previous roles, I plan to go all in, only this time I plan to Win!” — Broadway star Valisia LeKae

Broadway star Valisia LeKae is a 2013 Tony Award nominee for “Best Actress in a Musical” for her performance as Diana Ross in “Motown: The Musical.”In addition to “Motown: The Musical,” LeKae has appeared on Broadway in “The Book of Mormon,” “Ragtime,” “110 in the Shade.” and “The Threepenny Opera.”

In possibly the most important role of her life, Valisia is a passionate ovarian cancer survivor, who wants to educate women of all ages about the importance of diagnosing and treating the disease in its early stages.

LeKae’s Ovarian Cancer Journey

Valisia’s ovarian cancer journey began in September 2013 when she was diagnosed with a supposedly benign cyst on her right ovary that was associated with endometriosis (called an “endometrioma“). Over a short period of time, LeKae’s cyst grew rapidly, and ultimately, it required surgical removal. Based upon a pathologist’s examination of the cyst that was removed from LeKae during surgery, she was diagnosed with ovarian clear cell carcinoma (OCCC) in December 2013.

In its purest form, OCCC is an aggressive form of epithelial ovarian cancer that is often chemoresistant. I learned this fact firsthand after my 26-year cousin, Elizabeth “Libby” Remick, lost her battle to OCCC in July 2008. This website is dedicated to Libby’s memory.

Valisia LeKae shared her ovarian cancer diagnosis publicly through her Facebook page with the stated intent to educate women of all ages about the disease, including those who have no family history of ovarian cancer:

“On, Nov 22, 2013, I had laparoscopic surgery to remove an endometrioma from my right ovary. A sample was taken from that endometrioma and on December 2, 2013, my pathology results reveled that I was positive for Ovarian Clear Cell Carcinoma, Ovarian Cancer. After receiving a second opinion it was confirmed by my Gynecologic Oncologist on Dec 9, 2013, that the diagnosis had been correct.

Per the advice of my doctor, I will need to have another surgery (unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) as well as chemotherapy. I am scheduled for Thursday (December 19, 2013 ) and chemotherapy soon thereafter.

‘Ovarian Cancer mainly develops in older women. About half of the women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years or older. It is more common in white women that African-American women (Cancer.org).’

As a 34 year old, African American woman, I feel that it is important that I share my story in order to educate and encourage others about this disease and the fight against it.

2013 has been full of blessings, from being nominated for a prestigious Tony Award for my portrayal of “Diana Ross” in Motown The Musical as well as many other accolades. God has given me another role to play and like all my previous roles, I plan to go all in, only this time I plan to Win!”

On April 29, 2014, Valisia announced publicly on Twitter that her ovarian cancer was in complete remission (technically known as “no evidence of disease” or “N.E.D.”) by using the celebratory hashtag “#CANCERFREE.”

 

“Know Your Body, Know Your Risk” Ovarian Cancer Awareness Campaign and Public Service Announcement

Today, Ms. LeKae joined her gynecological oncologist David Fishman, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Director and Founder of the Mount Sinai Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program, and executives from Toshiba, for the debut of a 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) promoting Ovarian Cancer Awareness. The ovarian cancer PSA premiere was broadcasted this afternoon on the Toshiba Vision Screens located at 46th Street and 7th Avenue in New York City. The iconic Toshiba screens are located in Times Square.

Rising 400 feet above street level in the visually dynamic surroundings of colorful Times Square billboards, striking black and white portraits of the stunning Broadway performer (photographed by Peter Hapak) will be broadcast on the Toshiba Vision screens as part of a two-week Ovarian Cancer Awareness public service campaign,  entitled “Know Your Body, Know Your Risk.” The ovarian cancer PSA was produced by Spotco with assistance from the Mount Sinai Health System.

The Mount Sinai Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program PSA will continue to broadcast every six minutes, 24-hours per day through May 15th.

“Dr. Fishman and the Mount Sinai team helped to save my life, so I want to give back by helping to educate and encourage others about this disease and the fight against it,” said Valisia LeKae.

While only the 11th most common cancer among U.S. women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest form of gynecologic cancer. In 2014, approximately 22,000 U.S. women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 14,000 will die from the disease. To learn more about ovarian cancer, click here.

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We would like to take this opportunity to thank Valisia LeKae for using her celebrity to raise public awareness about the most lethal gynecologic cancer. Valisia’s ovarian cancer advocacy will certainly not garner her a Tony Award, but in the eyes of all ovarian cancer survivors and their family members, it represents not only a job well done, but a life well spent.

Sources:

  • “Broadway Star Valisia LeKae To Debut Ovarian Cancer PSA,” LooktotheStars.org, May 1, 2014.
  •  “Valisia LeKae Reveals Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis, Withdraws from Broadway’s MOTOWN THE MUSICAL,” Broadwayworld.com, December 17, 2013.

 

Dana-Farber Oncologists Differ Widely on the Use of Multiplex Tumor Genomic Testing

A new study by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suggests that not all doctors are ready to embrace tests that may identify hundreds of genomic changes in a patient’s tumor sample for the purpose of determining appropriate treatment.

Many cancer researchers believe that cutting-edge advances in genomics will pave the way for personalized or “precision” cancer medicine for all patients in the near future. A new study by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, however, suggest that not all doctors are ready to embrace tests that look for hundreds of genomic changes in a patient’s tumor sample, while others plan to offer this type of cancer genomic tumor testing to most of their patients. The study findings were published recently in the Journal of Clinical Oncology [1], along with an accompanying editorial. [2]

The wide variation in attitudes was in part determined by physicians’ “genomic confidence.” Physicians who had a lot of confidence in their ability to use and explain genomic findings were more likely to want to prescribe the test and consider using test results when making treatment recommendations. Other physicians had lower levels of genomic confidence and were more reluctant to offer such testing. These findings are particularly interesting because the survey was carried out at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), which has a comprehensive research program. The DF/BWCC research program allows all consenting patients to have genomic tumor testing, which is capable of finding gene mutations and other DNA alternations that drive a patient’s cancer. In some cases, the genomic tumor profiles identify “druggable” targets that may allow doctors to use specific drugs known to be effective against particular gene mutations or alterations.

The researchers were perplexed by another key study survey finding: 42 percent of responding oncologists approved of telling patients about genomic tumor test results even when their significance for the patient’s outlook and treatment is uncertain. This issue comes with the growing use of predictive multiplex genomic testing, which can identify tens or hundreds of gene mutations simultaneously and often detects rare DNA variants that may or may not be relevant to the treatment of an individual’s cancer.

“Some oncologists said we shouldn’t return these results to the patient, and others say ‘of course we should give them to the patient’,” said Stacy W. Gray, M.D., AM, of Dana-Farber, first author of the report. “I think the fact that we found so much variation in physicians’ confidence about their ability to use genetic data at a tertiary care, National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center makes us pause and wonder about how confident physicians in the community are about dealing with this,” she said. “It begs the question at a national level, how are we going to make sure that this technology for cancer care is adequately delivered?”

The study survey was conducted in 2011 and early 2012 as a baseline assessment of physicians’ attitudes prior to the rollout of the genomic tumor testing project referred to as “Profile” (which formerly utilized a technology platform called “OncoMap“) at DF/BWCC.

For purposes of the study, a total of 160 Dana-Farber adult cancer physicians – including medical oncologists (43%), surgeons (29%), and radiation oncologists (19%) – participated in the survey. They were asked about their current use of multiplex tumor genomic testing, their attitudes about multiplex testing, and their confidence in the ability to understand and use genomic data. The survey did not include a direct test of the physicians’ knowledge.

Among the many intriguing findings of this study, a wide variability in interest in multiplex tumor genomic testing was identified—25% of respondents anticipated testing more than 90% of their patients, whereas 17% of respondents anticipated testing 10% or less. Beliefs related to the potential value of multiplex tumor genomic testing were largely positive; most expressed belief that this form of testing would increase treatment (73%) and research options (90%) for patients, as well as both physician (80%) and patient satisfaction (80%).

Despite the foregoing, less than 50% of the physicians planned to view the multiplex tumor genomic testing results routinely. Moreover, the majority of respondents planned only to “rarely” or “sometimes” use the clinically relevant results (58%), called “Tier 1” by the study authors, and potentially actionable results (88%), called “Tier 2,” to assist them in the treatment of patients. However, the respondents more often indicated that results of multiplex tumor genomic tests should be shared with patients, particularly findings revealing the presence of a Tier 1 (clinically relevant) genomic variant—87% believed that these findings should be discussed—versus a Tier 2 (potentially actionable) genomic variant (50%), or a Tier 3 (uncertain significance) genomic variant (40%). A substantial minority (39%) also disagreed with a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute policy prohibiting the disclosure of Tier 3 genomic variants to patients.

Interestingly, despite limited exposure to routine genomic tests for a large portion of the respondents, the stated “genomic confidence” of participating physicians was quite high. The majority of participants reported that they were “somewhat” or “very” confident in their (i) knowledge of genomics (78%), (ii) ability to explain genomics (86%), and (iii) ability to use genomic results to guide treatment (74%); however, a substantial minority of the Dana-Farber physicians (28%) reported genomic confidence of “not very” or “not at all confident.”

Based upon the study survey findings, Dr. Gray and her colleagues conclude that there is “little consensus” on how physicians plan to use multiplex tumor genomic testing for personalized cancer care, and they suggest the need for evidence-based guidelines to help doctors determine when testing is indicated.

“I think one of the strengths of this study is that its information comes from an institution where ‘precision cancer medicine’ is available to everyone,” commented Barrett Rollins, M.D., Ph.D., Dana-Farber’s Chief Scientific Officer and a co-author of the paper. “It highlights the fact there’s a lot of work to be done before this can be considered a standard approach in oncology.”

The senior author of the study is Jane Weeks, M.D., MSc, of Dana-Farber; additional authors include Angel Cronin, MS, of Dana-Farber and Katherine Hicks-Courant, BA, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The research was supported by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Gray also receives support from the American Cancer Society (120529-MRSG-11-006-01-CPPB) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (U01HG006492)

Pursuant to a new phase of Profile, initiated by Dana-Farber in 2013, a more advanced technology platform (called “OncoPanel“) utilizes “massively parallel” or “next-generation” sequencing to read the genetic code of approximately 300 genes in each patient’s tumor sample. “Massively parallel” refers to the technology’s capacity for sequencing large numbers of genes simultaneously. The 300 genes evaluated in connection with the OncoPanel were chosen because they have been implicated in a variety of cancers.

In addition to the complete DNA sequencing of more than 300 genomic regions to detect known and unknown cancer-related mutations, the OncoPanel technology can also examine those regions for gains and losses of DNA sequences and rearrangements of DNA on chromosomes. The results are entered into a database for research purposes, but, if a patient agrees, the clinically important findings can also be returned to their doctor for use in the clinic.

The OncoPanel advanced sequencing platform is an important update to Dana-Farber’s original OncoMap platform. OncoPanel can detect not only commonly known gene mutations, but also other critical types of cancer-related DNA alterations not previously identified. In contrast, OncoMap was limited to screening for known cancer-related gene mutations. The OncoPanel testing is done at the Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics, a CLIA-certified laboratory operated by the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

References:

1./ Gray SW, et al. Original Reports – Health Services and OutcomesPhysicians’ Attitudes About Multiplex Tumor Genomic TestingJ. Clin. Oncol., published online before print on March 24, 2014, doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.52.4298.

2./ Hall MJ. Conflicted Confidence: Academic Oncologists’ Views on Multiplex Tumor Genomic Testing. J. Clin. Oncol. Editorial, published online before print March 24, 2014, doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.54.8016