At any given moment in time, thousands of scientists in every corner of the world are working on research to find a cure or a better treatment for some form of cancer. In just the past few months, we’ve seen numerous breakthroughs in ovarian cancer treatment. Below is an overview of three of the most promising research projects. While still in the pre-clinical stage, prior to human trial, these approaches show great promise and we will be following them as they move into human trials.
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Statins as cancer cure?
Statins, also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of lipid-lowering medications. Most commonly, they are used to treat cardiovascular disease and improve outcomes for those who are at high risk. However, researchers at Keele University in Staffordshire England have identified a role for statins in the treatment of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Alan Richardson led the Keele University researchers who identified a particular statin — pitavastatin — as well-suited to targeting ovarian cancer cells because it lasts long enough to inhibit tumor growth. Pitavastatin therapy has been shown effective in trials with mice and the next stage of research will be full clinical trials in humans. The research also revealed that diet can limit the effectiveness of pitavastatin, so future studies will control diet to ensure the therapy is not negatively impacted.
Combining drugs to challenge drug-resistant cancers
A researcher at UCLA set out to determine why so many women (up to 85%) see a recurrence of their high-grade serous ovarian cancer. Dr. Sanaz Memarzadeh, a member of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, discovered that using a combination of drug therapies may be more effective than just using the chemotherapy drug carboplatin alone.
Memarzadeh's research, published in the journal Precision Oncology, shows a new combination therapy of carboplatin and an experimental drug called birinapant can improve survival in mice with ovarian cancer tumors in 50% of cases. Additional findings reveal that testing for a specific protein could identify ovarian tumors that will respond best to the treatment, which could also target cancers that affect other parts of the body, including the bladder, cervix, colon and lung.
T-cells to the rescue
Dr. Kristin Anderson, working with a team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is developing T-cell therapy for ovarian tumors based on their success with T-cell therapy for leukemia. Still in its preclinical stage, this T-cell therapy must be adapted for use on solid tumors and evolve to work in a tumor microenvironment that includes the non-cancerous cells and molecules in and around the tumor.
Anderson and her colleagues have identified proteins overproduced by ovarian cancer cells, known as WT1 and mesothelin, and have found that T cells engineered to recognize these proteins can kill both human and mouse ovarian cancer cells in the lab. They've also found that the T-cells significantly extend survival in a mouse model of the cancer, although they have a way to go before they’ll be ready for human trials.
If you or a loved one are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, get the skilled, compassionate care you need and deserve. Dr. Perez of Sierra Nevada Cancer Center is experienced in the treatment of all gynecologic cancer, including ovarian, cervical, endometrial and uterine. To make an appointment with Dr. Perez at any of our four northern Nevada locations, call 775-883-3336.