Study Pries Into Ovarian Cancer's Deadly Secrets

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Ovarian Cancer Drug Testing

Defects in two cell-messaging systems work in sync in one common form of the disease.

A new University of Michigan Medical School study sheds light on cell defects that lead to one common type of ovarian cancer and puts forth a promising new mouse model that already is being used for preclinical drug testing.

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Dr. ChoThe study, published in the April issue of Cancer Cell, focuses on ovarian endometrioid adenocarcinoma, the second most common form of a baffling, deadly disease for which early detection methods and effective treatments have been elusive so far. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 22,430 new cases of ovarian cancer and 15,280 deaths from the disease in the United States this year.

The new mouse model developed in the U-M lab is based on molecular defects shown to be present in human ovarian tumor cells, says senior author Kathleen R. Cho, M.D., who treats patients as a member of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. Cho's and others' existing mouse models, if designed to mimic the four major types of ovarian cancer, should provide key tools for learning how gene mutations and cell changes lead to disease, and for finding treatments during ovarian cancer's early stages, when treatments are most likely to be effective.

"We need models to do preclinical testing of new drugs that target the specific molecular defects in a patient's tumor cells," says Cho, a professor of pathology and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. Using the genetically engineered mice her lab developed, one preclinical study is already under way, testing an existing drug called Rapamycin. The lab's mouse model can also be used to test new drug candidates that inhibit the cell-messaging systems defective in ovarian endometrioid adenocarcinoma.

Cho says possible new treatments taking advantage of the lab's findings are probably several years away.

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