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Ovarian Cancer: Five Distinct Diseases with Unique Characteristics

May 26, 2015

In this final week of May, I’d like to shift away from endometrial cancer and share some ovarian cancer team discoveries from OVCARE.

Thanks to the work of my colleagues Drs. Blake Gilks, Martin Kobel, David Huntsman and others—work that was done before I joined the BC Cancer Agency—we learned that epithelial ovarian cancer is not one disease but actually five distinct subtypes. Each subtype has a very different clinical course, can require different surgeries, respond differently to therapy, and have different sites of origin. Dr. Huntsman’s team can claim three major gene discoveries (and a shared fourth gene discovery) relevant to specific ovarian cancer subtypes.

I have worked with our team to try and further characterize these distinct types in terms of genetic and molecular differences. We have revealed some specific mutations to target (e.g., in rare mucinous ovarian cancers) and are now able to guide women towards hereditary cancer counseling based on the type of cancer they have. We are also working to describe the “genetic landscape” of the very common but complex high-grade serous cancers. With the help of Dr. Sohrab Shah and his team we hope we can provide insight in to the evolution of these tumours.

You might wonder, “What does ovarian cancer research happening in B.C. mean for me and my family?” (a.k.a. what does any of this stuff under the microscope amount to?)

In my final blog post I will share three stories from the OVCARE team that are improving the outlook for women facing ovarian cancer in our province. Stay tuned,