Due to the lack of screening tools for detection of early stage ovarian cancer, most ovarian cancer is diagnosed late, when the disease has already spread in the patient’s abdomen. At a late stage, current treatments are less effective. Late detection of the tumor also has hampered the study of where and how these tumors arise. However, recent studies suggest that many of the most aggressive ovarian cancers arise from the tip of the fallopian tube near the ovary rather than from the ovary itself. Microscopic analysis of the fallopian tubes from women with inherited ovarian cancer and who have mutations in the BRCA1 gene reveals early cancers and even pre-cancerous lesions in their fallopian tubes. The objective of Dr. Perets’ research is to test whether the fallopian tube is the origin site of ovarian cancer by making a mouse model of “ovarian” cancer. Dr. Perets will genetically engineer a mouse to have human genetic mutations in the fallopian tube, but not in the ovary, to determine if such genetic alterations cause tumor development in the mouse. Her findings should provide evidence for the hypothesis that fallopian tube cells are responsible for ovarian cancer and may also enable women with predisposition to ovarian cancer to undergo better preventive screening.
This grant has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
Ruth Perets, MD, PhD, is an Israeli physician-scientist. She graduated from the Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem and is doing a medical oncology residency in the Sheba Hospital Cancer Center in Israel. She earned a Masters degree in cancer research from the Hebrew University and earned her PhD from the Hebrew University, for work done under the supervision of Drs. Yinon Ben-Neriah and Eli Pikarsky.
While looking for a way to focus her career on ovarian cancer, Dr. Perets read about Dr. Ronnie Drapkin’s research in the field of ovarian cancer pathogenesis. In particular, she found the novel idea of the fallopian tube as the origin of ovarian carcinoma fascinating. This seemed like a provocative, yet very appealing and plausible hypothesis. In Israel, due to the unique population, hereditary ovarian cancer is responsible for approximately half of the ovarian cancer cases. In such a population, revealing the true pathogenesis of the disease could have a significant impact in prevention and early detection of the disease.
Dr. Perets have taken a leave of absence from my residency to do a post-doctoral fellowship in the Drapkin lab at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She focuses on validating this new hypothesis in both animal models and through molecular and genomic analyses. She hopes to be able to combine the knowledge gained from her research in my clinical work back in Israel, while continuing to carry on this cutting edge research on ovarian cancer pathogenesis.