Madison, Wisconsin – A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher is honing in on a way to identify women at high risk of ovarian cancer recurrence, a common problem with the disease.
Christina Kendziorski, principal investigator at the Kendziorski lab in the department of biostatistics and medical informatics, and her team of researchers have identified a set of genetic traits that indicate a person may have a relapse of ovarian cancer.
“Our work on biomarker development has been largely focused on ovarian cancer, which is one of the most challenging cancers meaning diagnosis is often late and prognosis is often not good,” she said.
Kendziorski presented her findings Feb. 20, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting.
Only about 25 percent of women diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer are cured by standard treatment, which typically includes surgery to remove the tumor and platinum-based chemotherapy. The 75 percent of patients who are not cured by this initial treatment go on to have a recurrence of the cancer or die from the disease.
Kendziorski’s team discovered that there are six genes whose increased expression corresponds to a greater risk of cancer recurrence following initial surgery and treatment. Identifying women at highest risk of recurrence early on could have major implications for treatment, with those at high risk being treated more aggressively.
Kendziorski’s research showed that in a small subset of high-risk patients who were treated more aggressively, overall survival was improved.
The long-term goal of this discovery is to develop a biomarker that is more refined, and to better understand the biological mechanisms underlying the six genes, she said in her presentation. Both may make it easier for physicians to reduce the rate of ovarian cancer recurrences.