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BC scientists uncover new subtypes of ovarian cancer with new potential treatment strategies

May 16, 2017

Found in News


VANCOUVER, B.C. – BC Cancer Agency scientists have uncovered seven new subtypes of ovarian cancer, which could result in new treatment strategies for some ovarian cancer patients including those that do not respond well to chemotherapy.

The discovery, published in Nature Genetics, analyzed the genetic information of more than 100 ovarian cancer patients in order to identify abnormalities in the DNA of ovarian cancer cells.

Two of the new genetic subtypes uncovered belong to a very common and deadly form of ovarian cancer called high grade serous carcinoma (HGSC). Scientists believe they have found a structural change in the DNA of one subtype that can identify HGSC patients that will not respond to chemotherapy and who may instead benefit from new classes of treatments.

“This study demonstrates that patterns of changes across the DNA inside cancer cells can help direct drug development efforts for the hardest-to-treat subtypes of ovarian cancer,” says Dr. Sohrab Shah, senior scientist at the BC Cancer Agency, who led the research.

The other five subtypes uncovered were found by analyzing clear cell, endometriod and adult granulosa cell ovarian cancers. The results from this work suggest that some of these subtypes may be susceptible to existing treatments. Clinical trials are needed to confirm these results.

“This information can be used to develop tests that can direct patients toward new investigational treatments,” says Dr. Shah, who is also an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Computational Cancer Genomics at the University of British Columbia.

The BC Cancer Foundation supported this work, through the generosity of donors across the province who are committed to improving outcomes for ovarian cancer patients. 

Quick Facts:

  • More than 300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in BC
  • Approximately 250 women in the province die from ovarian cancer each year
  • HGSC is the most malignant form of ovarian cancer and accounts for up to 70 per cent of all ovarian cancer cases 
  • 80 per cent of women diagnosed with HGSC relapse despite an initial response to treatment.

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.ca or follow us on Twitter @BCCancer_Agency.

The BC Cancer Foundation is the bridge that connects philanthropic support and research breakthroughs in cancer knowledge.  As the fundraising partner of the BC Cancer Agency and the largest charitable funder of cancer research in this province, we enable donors to make contributions to leading-edge research that has a direct impact on improvements to cancer care for patients in British Columbia. We fund with the goal of finding solutions. Visit www.bccancerfoundation.com to make a donation or to learn how you can make a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer. 

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.




For more information:

Media Contact:


Kevin Sauve

Communications Officer

BC Cancer Agency,

Provincial Health Services Authority