Researchers at USC may have found a way better pinpoint survival estimates for women with aggressive ovarian cancer, helping to tailor treatments and identify which patients might benefit from clinical trials, according to findings released Monday.
A new study by USC scientists and their international colleagues analyzes how a tumor gene test could help identify patients with the best chances of survival, according to findings published in the journal Annals of Oncology.
“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,” said Joshua Millstein, an associate professor of research in preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study’s first author. “For example, those patients might be good candidates for clinical trials or for different treatments that might improve their survival.”
In addition to Millstein, a member of the USC Norris cancer center, the other USC author on the study was Anna Wu, a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine.
An estimated 21,750 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and researchers found that the average survival for women with the most common and aggressive form is around four years. Survival rates vary widely among patients, underscoring the need to estimate who is facing a fast-moving or slower disease.
USC researchers discovered that a tumor gene test, which is based on tissue removed during cancer surgery, is better at predicting survival among women with ovarian cancer than making estimates the usual way, which is based on a patient’s age and cancer stage.
For the study, scientists looked at preserved tumor samples and survival data from nearly 4,000 women worldwide whose information already had been collected for previous studies, and they created a customized gene test to predict a patient’s five-year survival rate.
“Some of the genes we identified as being predictors for good or poor survival may be potential targets for new treatments,” said senior author Susan Ramus, an ovarian cancer researcher previously at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and now a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
“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,” she added. “So this is a way to stratify patients and potentially give more personalized treatment down the track.”
The research paper involved 125 authors across 86 organizations and was funded, in part, by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the United States Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program and the National Cancer Institute.