In 2017, ovarian cancer was the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, and the leading cause of death from cancer of the female reproductive system. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages and still confined to the ovaries (stage I), the disease can be cured in up to 90% of patients using currently available therapy. However, once the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis (stage III-IV), it can be cured in only 20% or less of patients. While the median survival of ovarian cancer patients has increased in recent years, less than 30% of ovarian cancer patients survive long term due, in part, to the persistence of dormant drug-resistant cancer cells. The overall goal of the Ovarian Cancer SPORE at MD Anderson is to overcome the intrinsic and acquired resistance of ovarian cancer cells that prevents current treatment options from increasing long-term survival.
There are many different types of ovarian cancer, categorized by the type of cell from which the malignancy is thought to originate.
About 90% of ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinomas. In this type of cancer, a malignant tumor originates in surface epithelial tissue, which covers the outside of the ovary or the tips of the fallopian tube. 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 the vast majority (~80%) are diagnosed in women under the age of 30.
Sex Cord Stromal
Sex cord stromal tumors account for approximately 5% of all ovarian cancers and 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 cancers.
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, as well as from the clinic back to the laboratory. The ultimate goal of this NCI initiative is to reduce the incidence and mortality of cancers at differing sites, or that share a common cause, and to improve the quality of life for cancer patients.
SPORE funding is awarded to institutions with expertise in cancer research and a track record of turning promising laboratory findings into advances in patient care. The MD Anderson Cancer Center Ovarian Cancer SPORE includes a career enhancement program (CEP) that trains physicians-scientists, clinical investigator and laboratory-based investigators to formulate research plans with clinically testable hypotheses. The SPORE CEP provides awardees with an opportunity to learn through their experience in conducting a research project with the advice from a clinical mentor, a laboratory mentor and members of their own mentoring team. We encourage minority and women faculty members from participating institutions to apply for a CEP award.
The purpose of the Developmental Research Program (DRP) is to fund promising projects by investigators whose current work may not focus exclusively on ovarian cancer, but propose highly innovative translational studies of ovarian cancer that could become full SPORE projects or compete for funding outside of the SPORE. The DRP allows us to recruit investigators into the ovarian cancer research community.
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. We want to solve the dilemmas facing patients with all forms of ovarian cancer and other related diseases.