Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the western world. More than one in four women do not respond to standard first-line chemotherapy treatment — an alarming number that a TFRI-funded research team wants to improve.
“Women treated for ovarian cancer in Canada receive very much the same treatments across the country. We want to identify those women who will respond to treatment as well as those who won’t so we can avoid the toxicities and offer them other choices that are available,” says Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, one of three co-principal investigators for TFRI’s pan-Canadian Ovarian Experimental Unified Resource (COEUR).
Since 2009, the COEUR team has collected more than 2,000 ovarian cancer samples from patients across the country. Researchers are analyzing and comparing different tumour types to identify biomarkers and classify different sub-types of the disease.
“Our goal has been to create a cohort of patients who have had ovarian cancer and to collect their biological samples so we can ask questions about sub-typing the disease,” explains Dr. Mes-Masson, based at the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de L’Université de Montréal (CRCHUM).“This is also to identify biomarkers that would allow us to better stratify patients when it comes to treatment.”
While treatment today is largely a one-size fits-all approach, future therapy for these patients would be personalized, applying the best treatment available for the tumour type identified.
COEUR is also a great example of the teamwork philosophy of TFRI, adds Dr. Mes-Masson. Co-PIs on the project in addition to Mes-Masson are Drs. David Huntsman (BC Cancer Agency) and Diane Provencher (CRCHUM).
“No centre in Canada would have had the resources to undertake such a large project by itself,” she says. “It’s really required all of the tumour banks across Canada to come together with their own partners in order to be able to reach our goal.”
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