OCRA Funded Research Indicates that Stem-Like Cells May Be Key to Preventing Recurrence

(March 15, 2019) Cell Reports recently published a study about a drug that, given in combination with chemotherapy, could greatly increase survival rates of ovarian cancer patients. Researchers, including OCRA grantees Illana Chefetz, PhD and Ronald Buckanovich, MD, PhD, identified a new drug, 673A, that finds and destroys stem-like ovarian cancer cells. Stem-like cells are important in the development of ovarian cancer because they are the seeds from which the cancer grows. Dr. Buckanovich, the Director of the Ovarian Center of Excellence at Magee-Womens Research Institute and OCRA Scientific Advisory Committee Member, explains it this way: “I especially like the dandelion analogy. When we treat cancer, we’re essentially mowing the lawn. But the problem is that dandelions always come back.”

This drug, which is effective because targets the ALDH pathway, kills between 3 and 5 percent of these stem-like cells, but it makes a huge impact. Although the drug has not been tested in humans yet, mouse models have shown a lot of promise.