Research Finds Better Method to Estimate Ovarian Cancer Survival Rates

October 17, 2020
Matthew Fowler

A study published in the Annals of Oncology suggests a better method involving tumor gene tests for estimating the survival of women with aggressive ovarian cancers.

A new study by a team of USC researchers and international colleagues may have found a better method to estimate survival rates for women with aggressive ovarian cancer, according to findings published in Annals of Oncology.

The findings of the study focus the development of approaches for targeted therapeutics and identify patients who would benefit most from access to clinical trials.

“We envisioned a test to use at the time of diagnosis — to identify patients unlikely to benefit from current treatments and potentially offer them alternatives,” study’s first author, Joshua Millstein, said in a press release. “For example, those patients might be good candidates for clinical trials or for different treatments that might improve their survival.”

The researchers found that a tumor gene test is better at predicting survival for women with ovarian cancer than making estimates based on a patient’s age and stage of cancer, which is the usual method.

The study analyzed preserved tumor samples and data regarding the survival duration after diagnosis for almost 4000 women globally. The test was custom designed to measure each sample for the “expression of 500 genes linked to the ovarian cancer disease process.”

Next, the researchers “trained” the test by inputting gene expression data from each tumor and the number of years the patients survived after initial diagnosis. Shortly following these steps, the test could accurately predict the 5-year survival rate for a patient based only on the tumor gene expression profile.

“Some of the genes we identified as being predictors for good or poor survival may be potential targets for new treatments,” Susan Ramus, senior author and professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said in a press release.

The researchers suspect this information could help patients who are newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer make treatment decisions with their doctors and set targets for developing therapy.

For patients in the United States, nearly 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020, with an average survival rate for patients with the most common and aggressive form of cancer being around 4 years.

“At the moment, the majority of ovarian cancer patients get the same treatment. It’s not like breast cancer or other cancers where they look at your tumor and select from a range of treatments,” Ramus said. “So this is a way to stratify patients and potentially give more personalized treatment down the track.”

Reference:

A new test may better predict ovarian cancer survival [news release]. University of Southern California. Published August 17, 2020. https://news.usc.edu/174499/new-tumor-gene-test-ovarian-cancer-survival-usc-research/. Accessed October 5, 2020.

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