New findings give hope for a treatment
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects women’s ovaries, the small organs that produce eggs for reproduction.
This disease is difficult to detect in the early stages, as it often only becomes apparent after it has spread to the pelvis and abdomen.
At this advanced stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and can be fatal.
High-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) is a subtype of ovarian cancer. It is particularly aggressive and offers the worst survival rates in ovarian cancer patients.
Currently, less than half of women diagnosed with HGSC live beyond five years.
Challenges in treating ovarian cancer
A major hurdle in the fight against ovarian cancer is its genetic complexity. Like a chameleon, it is constantly changing and adapting, making it difficult to study and even more difficult to treat.
This applies in particular to HGSC. Since each tumor can be genetically very different, it is difficult to find a uniform treatment approach.
New breakthroughs in ovarian cancer research
However, recent research by scientists from various Finnish and Danish universities has shed new light on HGSC.
They were able to divide HGSC tumors into three different groups. Each group has unique characteristics, such as how they grow and how they respond to treatment.
This study, published in the journal Cancer Cell, is a major step forward. This means doctors may soon be able to personalize treatment based on a patient’s specific type of HGSC.
The three types of HGSC tumors
The scientists examined tumor samples from 148 HGSC patients. They found that the tumors were classified into three categories, or “evolutionary states,” which they called “evolving,” “conservative,” and “adaptive.”
“Evolving” tumors are constantly changing, and the cells within the tumor are all genetically different. “Conserving” tumors, on the other hand, are more uniform.
The cells within the tumor are genetically identical or “clonal”. Finally, “adaptive” tumors change over time in response to treatment or the body’s immune response.
The researchers also found that each of these three tumor types has a unique ‘signaling pathway’.
A signaling pathway is a group of molecules in a cell that work together to control one or more cellular functions, such as cell division or cell death.
By understanding these signaling pathways, physicians can develop new treatments that directly target these specific tumor types.
Improving the treatment of HGSC patients
One of the signaling pathways discovered by the researchers is particularly important for “adaptive” tumors. This signaling pathway, termed PI3K/AKT, controls several cellular processes including cell growth and survival.
There are already drugs that can target this pathway, but until now doctors have not known which patients are most likely to benefit from them.
Thanks to the results of this study, physicians can now identify patients with “adaptive” tumors who are likely to respond well to these drugs. This could lead to more effective, personalized treatment plans for these patients.
What’s next for ovarian cancer research?
This research is a major breakthrough, but there is still work to be done. Researchers are now looking for the best way to classify patients into these three groups based on their tumors.
This research is a shining example of the top quality work being done in Finland. Despite its small population, the country is making great strides in ovarian cancer research.
It is hoped that these findings will advance the entire field of ovarian cancer research and facilitate the development of new, targeted therapies.
With more effective treatments, we can improve the chances of survival for women diagnosed with this aggressive form of cancer.
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The study was published in cancer cells.
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