OCRA-Funded Research Provides a New Understanding of Ovarian Cancer Biology

Anil Sood MD
Anil Sood, M.D.

OCRA-funded researcher Anil K. Sood, M.D., lead and senior author, and Sanghoon Lee, Ph.D., first author, both at MD Anderson Cancer Center, along with colleagues, identified potential biomarkers in subgroups of high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC). Biomarkers are unique biological indicators of an event, or the presence of a substance in the body. Biomarkers are useful because they can help doctors detect and monitor diseases, as well as monitor how well diseases are responding to treatments. 

In this study, the researchers examined tumor samples from two different patient categories. One category included samples from those who underwent surgical complete gross resection (CGR), which is defined as surgery resulting in no visible tumor remaining. The other category included samples from patients who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT), which is chemotherapy that’s given to reduce a tumor’s size before the main treatment starts. When studying the samples, Dr. Sood and his colleagues also took into consideration whether patients had an excellent or poor response to their treatment. 

Among their findings, Dr. Sood and his colleagues identified a higher rate of NF1 gene loss in the group that underwent CGR. The NF1 gene is important because it provides the body with instructions for making a tumor suppressor protein that prevents cells from growing and dividing too quickly. The researchers also observed a lower chromothripsis-like pattern in the CGR group as compared with the NACT group. Chromothripsis, which has been linked to cancer, occurs when genomes are rearranged on a massive scale during one unique cellular event. In addition, Dr. Sood and his colleagues noted a higher level of neoantigens in the patients who underwent CGR versus the patients who received NACT. Neoantigens are new proteins that form on cancer cells and can cause an immune response in the body. The research team also found an increased number of infiltrated T cells and decreased macrophages in the CGR versus NACT group. T cells and macrophages work together to destroy infected cells that can harm the body. 

Dr. Sood says, “Findings from this study have major implications for developing new biomarker strategies and for developing targeted therapeutics for unique subsets of ovarian cancer.” 

To find out more about their ovarian cancer research findings, read the study published in Cell Reports.

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