Targeting all forms of ovarian cancer
Blanton-Davis researchers are seeking treatments for all ovarian cancer patients, including those with rare tumor types. Thanks to the work of Blanton-Davis scientists, a new two-tier tumor grading system has been adopted nationally to ensure that those with rare tumor types are properly diagnosed and treated. MD Anderson is home to several clinical trials for rare ovarian tumors, and investigators are constantly studying the biology of rare low-grade tumors to develop new therapies for patients.
The Anderson Algorithm is a surgical algorithm implemented at MD Anderson to provide personalized surgical care and maximize complete resection rates of ovarian cancer. In this approach, an upfront diagnostic laparoscopy is performed to assess the extent of disease in women with suspected advanced ovarian cancer. Based on this assessment, patients are scheduled for either upfront tumor debulking surgery or given chemotherapy prior to surgery. This algorithm also provides new opportunities for clinical trials. Many other centers are rapidly adopting this algorithm for upfront care of women with suspected ovarian cancer.
The effects of chronic stress on ovarian cancer
Naturally, any cancer diagnosis adds untold levels of stress to a patient’s life. This creates a vicious circle as scientists have long suspected that chronic stress influences the development and spread of cancer. Now, studies conducted by Blanton-Davis researchers have confirmed this relationship. Chronic stress can promote the growth and spread of ovarian cancer. Stress hormones also result in increased tumor growth and blood vessel formation. These research findings have identified new approaches for blocking such effects on cancer growth.
RNA interference as therapy
Blanton-Davis researchers pioneered RNA interference as an ovarian cancer therapy. The treatment uses a small section of RNA to infiltrate tumor cells and silence the genes causing cancer growth. The process is enhanced by the creation of nanoparticles that ferry the RNA fragments directly to tumor cells. Investigators are also using RNA interference to target the blood vessels that form to supply tumor cells with nutrients, a process known as angiogenesis.
PARP inhibitors halt tumor DNA repair
Cancer cells continue to live and thrive because they are able to repair DNA damage caused by some therapies using the PARP enzyme. MD Anderson researchers are using a new class of drugs that halt a cancer cell’s DNA repair mechanism. Like all cells, once a cancer cell’s DNA becomes too compromised for repair, the cell dies.
Targeting angiogenesis is the goal of a number of clinical trials to improve outcomes for women with ovarian cancer. Cancer cells rely on nourishment provided through these new blood vessels. Blanton-Davis researchers have devised several new treatment strategies that show substantial promise and will lead to further clinical investigation. Researchers are also studying the resistance mechanisms that inhibit the effectiveness of anti-angiogenesis drugs and are developing new methods to overcome such resistance.
Moreover, identifying biomarkers to determine patients most likely to benefit from anti-angiogenesis strategies is a major focus for Blanton-Davis researchers.
Immunotherapy fights cancer within Investigators are working on identifying mechanisms by which cancer cells evade recognition from the immune system and develop new methods to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer.