Ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal diseases and the main cause of mortality from gynecologic cancers, yet there are major gaps in the understanding of the origin of the disease and unmet needs in the development of new therapeutic approaches.
To enhance the success of advancing the science related to ovarian cancer, Wayne State University’s C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development, in collaboration with the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, has established the Ovarian Cancer Research Interest Group. The group seeks to bring together scientists and physicians working in the field to merge each investigator’s individual expertise to rapidly find solutions to confront the disease.
Led by Ayesha Alvero, M.D., M.Sc., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Radhika Gogoi, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the interest group has attracted
the participation of 20 laboratories from different departments, centers and institutions, including WSU, the Barabara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, the John D. Dingell Veterans Administration Medical Center and the Henry Ford Health System.
The investigators are from diverse fields of expertise such as cancer biology, immunology, biomedical engineering, endocrinology and metabolism. The group members include physicians, those with doctoral degrees, and medical and graduate trainees. The group meets monthly to discuss the research in each laboratory and institution.
While all women are at risk for ovarian cancer, older women are more likely to get the disease. Almost 90% of women diagnosed are older than 40, and most are 60 or older. Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer in the United States and the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
In 2017, the latest year for which data are available, the CDC said 20,452 new cases were reported and 14,193 women died of ovarian cancer. Ten new cases were reported for every 100,000 women.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in 2019 ovarian cancer causes more deaths among Michigan women than cervical, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancers combined. The state estimated that year, the latest statistics available, that there would be 730 new cases, and 490 deaths from ovarian cancer.
Women in Michigan diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a 46% chance of surviving five years, but Black women demonstrate a lower five-year survival rate at 39%.
In Michigan, only 22% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at the localized stage, when the five-year survival rate is 92%. Twenty-nine percent of women diagnosed at the distant stage will survive five years. Almost half (48%) of Michigan women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at the later distant stage.
The establishment of the Ovarian Cancer Research Interest Group has led to collaborations by sharing techniques, reagents, animal models and data. The enhanced collaboration between the members have led to the submission of at least 10 multi-principal investigator grants to the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense and private foundations. The goal is to obtain program grants, center grants and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence, or SPORE, grants from the National Cancer Institute to ensure the advancement of the research conducted in Michigan.
Established in 1992 to promote interdisciplinary research and to advance basic research findings bench to bedside, highly competitive SPORE grant submissions require a high degree of collaboration between first-rate scientists and clinicians, and demonstrate excellence in translational research projects.