Dr. Barbara Goff is the recipient of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund/Gynecologic Cancer Foundation Symptoms Study grant. The three year grant will allow Dr. Goff and her team to develop a mechanism for identifying ovarian cancer symptoms, so that ovarian cancer may be caught early in the progression of the disease. She was interviewed by OCRF’s Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Howard.
Elizabeth Howard: Dr. Goff, you recognized the need for a study of the symptoms women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer experience. Can you tell us when and how you developed the idea for this study?
Dr. Goff: I have been doing research on symptoms in ovarian cancer for about 10 years. In 2007 we did a study that found that certain symptoms were predictive for having ovarian cancer. Since there is currently no screening tests that are recommended for women in the general population, we felt it could be potentially useful to screen women with a symptom index and then offer testing (CA125 and transvaginal ultrasound) to those women who have symptoms that are concerning. There are some physicians and other providers who believe that this is not a feasible approach to screen for ovarian cancer. The study that OCRF and GCF are currently funding should help us begin to answer the questions of feasibility, sensitivity, specificity and cost effectiveness for this screening approach.
EH: In July 2007 a “consensus statement” was released that described some of the possible signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. How did different cancer organizations and physicians get involved to support this statement?
BG: There was much support from advocacy groups and ovarian cancer patients and survivors to get this consensus statement published and publicized. The American Cancer Society, Gynecologic Cancer Foundation and Society of Gynecologic Oncologists co-authored the statement. Ultimately most medical organizations were supportive of the statement but others felt that this information should not be shared with the public until additional research is done. Physician organizations were a little less enthusiastic because there hasn’t yet been research that shows that detection of ovarian cancer through symptom recognition results in better outcomes. Our feeling has been that since there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, every woman should have the opportunity to know what are the symptoms associated with this disease. Women who are diagnosed with an early stage disease have a much better chance of cure than those who are diagnosed late.
EH: OCRF, through the Gynecological Cancer Foundation, is now funding a second phase of your symptoms study. What are you specifically looking at now?
BG: We have already established that symptom screening for ovarian cancer is feasible and acceptable to both practitioners and patients. The second phase will be to expand our enrollment numbers so that we can evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of this screening approach. After that we hope to look at cost effectiveness.
EH: When will you be releasing the result of your new study?
BG: We will be enrolling patients for two years and then will be doing data analysis for 6-12 months. I expect that it will take three years to have final results, although we hope to be able to provide some preliminary information as we progress with the study.
About Dr. Barbara Goff
Dr. Barbara Goff attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed an obstetrics and gynecology residency at Harvard and a gynecologic oncology fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In 1993 she joined the faculty of the University of Washington. In 2002 she became a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She also has joint appointments in the Department of Surgery, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. In 2005 Dr. Goff was appointed Director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Washington. She has authored over 100 articles and written multiple text book chapters on gynecologic malignancies. Dr. Goff’s research interests include clinical trials for novel treatments of gynecologic cancers, factors associated with chemoresistance, gender bias in medical reimbursement, teaching and evaluating surgical skills, and screening and early detection of ovarian cancer. Currently, Dr. Goff is working on identifying a protocol for systematic collection of symptoms at the time of a primary care visit as a method of early detection of ovarian cancer. She is also doing population-based studies on factors associated with receipt of appropriate surgical care and referral of ovarian cancer patients. Dr. Goff was awarded the Rosalin Franklin Award for Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Research by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and has been named numerous times a “Best Doctor” by Good Housekeeping, Seattle Magazine, and America’s Top Doctors. She lives in Seattle with her husband, who is also a gynecologic oncologist, and their two children.