Ovarian cancer is expected to strike approximately 25,580 women in the United States this year, making it the second-highest ranked gynecologic disease behind uterine cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). When detected early, up to 90% can be cured with conventional surgery and chemotherapy currently available. Over the last 20 years, the five-year survival rate has improved significantly from 39.9% to over 44%. However, only 37-52% of patients with advanced disease are long-term survivors. Much has been learned in the laboratory regarding cellular and molecular alternatives in ovarian cancers. This knowledge is being applied to early detection, prevention and treatment.
There are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer, categorized by the type of cell where the malignancy begins:
About 90% of ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinomas. In this type of cancer, a malignant tumor originates in the surface epithelium tissue, which is the lining on the outside of the ovary. Epithelial ovarian cancer can be further subdivided into several histologic cell types including serous, mucinous, endometrioid, clear cell, transitional and undifferentiated carcinomas. The risk of epithelial ovarian cancer increases with age, especially after the age of 50.
Germ cell tumors account for approximately 5% of all ovarian cancers and originate in the egg-producing cells found within the ovary. This type of ovarian cancer can occur in women of any age, but approximately 80% are diagnosed in women under the age of 30.
Sex Cord Stromal
Sex cord stromal tumors, which account for approximately 5% of all ovarian cancers, develop in the connective tissue that holds the ovary together and produces the female hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Sex cord stromal tumors are relatively rare and generally less aggressive than other ovarian tumors.
What is a SPORE?
SPORE stands for Specialized Program of Research Excellence. Funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the program is part of a nationwide initiative designed to speed the flow of promising knowledge from the laboratory to the clinic, where it can help patients the most. The ultimate goal of this NCI initiative is to reduce cancer incidence and mortality and to improve the quality of life for cancer patients.
SPORE funding is given to institutions with expertise in cancer research and a track record of turning promising laboratory findings into advances in patient treatment or care. The MD Anderson Ovarian SPORE includes a career development program that trains physician-scientists to formulate research plans with clinically testable hypotheses, a developmental research program designed to support pilot projects in ovarian cancer research and five core research projects which build upon multidisciplinary studies that are already underway.
The results of this research are expected to rapidly increase the understanding of how ovarian cancer develops at the molecular and cellular level, and to push forward the development of new therapies and early detection methods. We want to solve the dilemmas facing patients with all forms of ovarian cancer and other related diseases.