Study Finds Knowledge Gaps in Ovarian Cancer

March 9, 2016

Ovarian cancer is a complex disease, comprised of many forms of degrees of aggression. Statistics for ovarian cancer remain startling and include 21,000 new cases annually in the United States and a staggering 14,000 deaths.

Ovarian cancer is a complex disease, comprised of many forms of degrees of aggression. Statistics for ovarian cancer remain startling and include 21,000 new cases annually in the United States and a staggering 14,000 deaths. Being the fifth leading cause of female cancer deaths, it has a typically low 5-year survival rage nearing less than 46%. This, however, is not true for all races, as the 5-year survival rate for black women is only around 36%.

Widely known, yet poorly understood throughout the medical community, are the vague symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, typically resulting in diagnosis in the setting of advanced disease which lowers the five year survival rate to around 30%.

A new report published by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, found recent evidence that “suggests many ovarian cancers arise in other tissues besides the ovary, such as the fallopian tubes, which eventually metastasize to the ovary, or they arise from cells that are not considered intrinsic to the ovary.1 Furthermore, researchers do not have a complete understanding of how each subtype of ovarian cancer progresses.” Recommendations have been made to not only prioritize research efforts to investigate ovarian cancer subtypes, but also to better understand the disease etiology, which would require evaluation of cellular origins and disease development.

“While progress has been made in ovarian cancer research over the past few decades, much remains to be learned,” said Committee chair and executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, Jerome F. Strauss III, MD, PhD. “The more that is understood about the basic biology of various types of ovarian cancers, such as where they originate in the body, the more rapidly we can move toward advances in prevention, screening, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care.”

The committee for this ovarian cancer study recommend the following:

  • Improve identification of high-risk women, including those with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations and concerning family histories.
  • Develop and implement genetic counseling and testing strategies for those directly affected by ovarian cancer and relatives for genetic mutations.
  • Expand the use of additional genetic markers for evaluation of ovarian cancer outside of the known BRCA1 and BRCA2 markers.
  • Identify and develop a risk assessment tool and evaluate risk factors outside of genetic predisposition to include factors such as hormonal, behavioral, social and other environmental factors, accounting for ovarian cancer subtypes.
  • Create research funding for the development of early detection methods beyond current evaluative tools, in an attempt to diagnose ovarian cancer earlier.
  • Improve technology to predict near-and long-term treatment response rates in women with newly diagnosed disease and for those with recurrent cancer.
  • Develop more effective therapies which will target the biology and clinical course of each ovarian cancer subtype.
  • Reduce healthcare disparities by improving access to care.
  • Develop reliable methods to disseminate and implement evidence-based information and practices to patients, families, healthcare providers, advocates, and others.

Is your medical facility taking any unique initiatives to improve earlier detection of ovarian cancer?

References:

  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). New Report Finds ‘Surprising Gaps’ in Knowledge of Ovarian Cancers; Better Understanding Needed to Make Progress in Prevention, Early Detection, Treatment, and Management of Disease.