Targeted treatment for ovarian cancer discovered

Researchers at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have developed a biologic drug that would prevent the production of a protein known to allow ovarian cancer cells to grow aggressively while being resistant to chemotherapy. This would improve treatment and survival rates for some women.

The work coming out of the molecular therapeutic laboratory directed by Richard G. Moore, MD, entitled "HE4 (WFDC2) gene overexpression promotes growth" was recently published in the international science journal Scientific Reports, a Nature publishing group.

"We have known that the protein HE4 is present in who have ovarian cancer," says Moore, who created the Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm (ROMA) to determine if a pelvic mass is cancerous based on the levels of HE4 and another protein. "What no one knew was why the protein is there or what activates it."

The WFCD2 gene produces a "messenger RNA" that encodes for the HE4 protein, not only imparting an aggressiveness to the tumor, enabling it to grow quickly, but also conveying a resistance to chemotherapy drugs used to treat the tumor.

"It plays a part in allowing the cancer to grow without restriction," Moore says. "We have determined that HE4 plays a part in allowing ovarian cells to become , giving them the ability to grow and resist chemo."

Once they identified the function of the protein, Moore's research team was able to design a biologic drug that can prevent the messenger RNA gene from creating HE4. The novel biologic has been tested in cell and animal models, and the results are that the cancer does not grow as aggressively and responds to chemotherapy.

"We would give this biologic – which has minimal side effects – to any patient we identify through a blood test as producing HE4," he says, adding that oncologists have recognized that women with high levels of HE4 do not respond to treatment and their are lower. "This would be an individualized treatment that could increase survival rates of some women with ovarian cancer."

Moore and his team will continue testing the , preparing for clinical trials in humans.

"This is a tremendous discovery and could mean the difference between life or death for some women with ovarian cancer," says Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Women & Infants. "Dr. Moore's research is ground-breaking in the area of , and it's all happening in his laboratory in the Knowledge District of Providence."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

FDA clears biomarker test for ovarian cancer

Sep 06, 2011

Approval last week by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clears the path for nationwide use of tools that show the greatest specificity in estimating the risk of ovarian cancer in women with a pelvic mass.

Chemoresponse assay helps boost ovarian cancer survival

Apr 25, 2013

This spring, a team of researchers has released results from an eight-year study that shows improved survival rates for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer who undergo cancer tumor testing to determine the best treatment.

Recommended for you

The fine line between breast cancer and normal tissues

11 hours ago

Up to 40 percent of patients undergoing breast cancer surgery require additional operations because surgeons may fail to remove all the cancerous tissue in the initial operation. However, researchers at Brigham ...

Pancreatic cancer risk not higher with diabetes Rx DPP-4i

12 hours ago

(HealthDay)—There is no increased short-term pancreatic cancer risk with dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 inhibitors (DPP-4i) compared to sulfonylureas (SU) and thiazolidinediones (TZD) for glycemic control, according ...

Good bowel cleansing is key for high-quality colonoscopy

15 hours ago

The success of a colonoscopy is closely linked to good bowel preparation, with poor bowel prep often resulting in missed precancerous lesions, according to new consensus guidelines released by the U.S. Multi-Society Task ...

New rules for anticancer vaccines

17 hours ago

Scientists have found a way to find the proverbial needle in the cancer antigen haystack, according to a report published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

User comments