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New subtype of ovarian cancer may be vulnerable to anti-angiogenic drugs
Date:2/14/2012

BOSTON--Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified a subtype of ovarian cancer able to build its own blood vessels, suggesting that such tumors might be especially susceptible to "anti-angiogenic" drugs that block blood vessel formation.

In a study published in the online journal PloS ONE, the investigators estimate that the subtype may account for a third of all serous ovarian cancers, a common cancer of the surface of the ovaries. The discovery of the subtype, made by analyzing data from the clinical records of more than 1,500 serous ovarian cancer patients and samples of their tumors, may spur clinical trials to determine if patients with the subtype can benefit from anti-angiogenic therapies now being tested in other cancers.

"Unlike breast cancer, where we can distinguish different subtypes based on their genetic signatures, ovarian cancer has been viewed as a monolithically homogenous disease -- each tumor very much like every other," says John Quackenbush, PhD, the study's co-senior author with his Dana-Farber colleague Ursula Matulonis, MD. "With this study, we've shown that serous ovarian cancer exists in at least one distinct subtype at the molecular level, raising the possibility that it will be vulnerable to therapies directed at its molecular weaknesses."

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, responsible for more than 15,000 deaths annually in this country, according to the American Cancer Society. High grade serous ovarian cancers the focus of the current study are one of several varieties of tumors that appear in the "epithelial" tissue lining the ovaries. Epithelial tumors account for about half of all ovarian cancers. ("Serous" refers to tumors that are found in tissues that produce a serum-like fluid. "High grade" refers to the highly abnormal appearance of the tumor's cells under a microscope.)

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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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