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FP6

OVCAD — Result In Brief

Project ID: 18698
Funded under: FP6-LIFESCIHEALTH
Country: Austria

Improving diagnosis of ovarian cancer

An EU-funded project investigated new approaches to detecting ovarian cancer. Advances in this area are important considering that some 63,000 ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Europe.
Improving diagnosis of ovarian cancer
Diagnosis of ovarian cancer is problematic and fails to detect the disease at an early stage as detection methods lack specificity and sensitivity. Treatment involves surgery followed by chemotherapy. However, 25% of patients relapse within six months following therapy, clearly indicating that the current therapy is far from beneficial.

Recurrence of ovarian cancer is detected by clinical symptoms or serum levels of CA 125 (mucin 16) protein. However, its role as a screening tool for the early detection of ovarian cancer is controversial as not all patients will have elevated levels of CA 125.

With this in mind, the EU-funded 'Ovarian cancer - diagnosing a silent killer' (OVCAD) project aimed to improve methods of detecting ovarian cancer minimal disease in order to identify patients that don't respond to the standard treatment. The consortium established an ovarian tumour bank containing biological materials from blood and tumour tissue of 300 patients. These were examined at the DNA, RNA and protein levels to investigate a 'molecular' signature associated with minimal disease. Candidate biomarkers at different disease stages were discovered and validated.

The team members also investigated the mechanism behind drug-resistance observed in ovarian cancer patients. They managed to isolate blood circulating cancer cells using a three-step technology and analyse their protein expression and genomic alterations to conclude that they constitute a heterogeneous cell population. Additionally, a novel therapeutic approach using antibodies against cancer cells was developed during the study.

A plethora of data was used to construct a database that will aid further collaborations and networking of the consortium partners. The molecular profile unravelled by the study results will serve to predict the response of patients to standard treatment and the outcome of disease.

Eventually it is envisaged that better detection of ovarian cancer will lead to development of novel therapeutic modalities and greater benefit to these patients.

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