Researching the Secrets of Cancer Killer Number Five: Gaining Against Ovarian Cancer

2011-08-18 | |
Last updated: 2011-08-18

What Are The Advances In Treating Ovarian Cancer?

At the other end of the research spectrum where efforts are directed towards the development of treatments, recent research is also making gains.

Slowing Tumor Growth

Using a drug commonly given to drug and alcohol addicts for rapid detoxification of their system, scientists were able slow the rate of Ovarian Cancer cell growth. By administering this drug for 6 hours in a day, the University of Pennsylvania researchers caused an increase in the production of natural body chemicals that slow the rate at which cancer cells reproduce. The drug also had the benefit of reducing the toxic effects of a chemotherapy drug on body. With Ovarian Cancer most often diagnosed in later stages, the ability to slow or halt the rate of cancer cell growth in a tumor is crucial for extending life.

Overcoming Chemotherapy Drug Resistance

Besides halting tumor growth, it is also key to actually kill the cancer cells if the tumor is to be eliminated. One common problem in Ovarian Cancer treatment is that Ovarian tumors often becomes resistant to the chemotherapy drugs.

Fortunately, research performed at Imperial College London identified the cause for drug resistance to platinum based chemotherapy medications used in the treatment of Ovarian Cancer. The scientists found a specific gene that promotes resistance to platinum. When they disabled the ability of the gene to increase platinum resistance, the cancer cells remained sensitive to chemotherapy exposure.

This is an important discovery because Ovarian Cancer treatments often fail when the cancer cells develop resistance before chemotherapy treatment is complete. With few existing treatment options, the result is often that there is no other way to treat the cancer.

In related efforts, very recent research from Indiana University found good results with a combination drug therapy that uses a platinum drug and a drug that reactivates tumor suppression genes. These tumor-suppressing genes are often disabled by Ovarian Cancer enabling it to avoid the immune system. The two previously approved drugs were found to be successful working together in halting cancer growth in 70% of the patients, an extremely successful result. The benefit of this discovery is that it can very quickly become a treatment option.

Programming Immune Cells

The last advancement to mention here is extremely important because it marks a new way to fight Ovarian Cancer. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have engineered a specific type of white blood cell, a T cell, that can detect Ovarian Cancer cells and trigger the immune system to attack these cells. These T cells are able to detect the cancer cells based on proteins that are only exposed on the surface of the cancerous cells. These engineered T cells are created by modifying a patient’s own T cells meaning they are not seen as foreign by the body.

These research successes are very significant in the fight against Ovarian Cancer because the specific proteins detected by the T cells in this experiment have been observed in 90% of Ovarian Cancer cases. This means that when the technology is perfected, it will drastically increase the survival rate among women diagnosed with the disease.


Ovarian Cancer has long held the title of “silent killer” because of its ability to avoid detection until too late. Fortunately, recent gains in understanding how the disease operates are exposing weaknesses that may lead to new treatments. At the same time, direct research into treatments is resulting in more effective ways to the fight the cancer. With the gains seen just this year, Ovarian Cancer could very soon become a far less dangerous disease.

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Category: Medical Research, Medical Treatment

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