The Ovarian Cancer Research Program

Together, we can enhance our understanding of ovarian cancer – from its origin, to the mechanisms that cause progression and reoccurrence, to the treatments that can improve patient outcomes. The leading physician-scientists at the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development are well positioned to investigate, discover and develop novel therapies to help all women who face an ovarian cancer diagnosis. The proposed Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) will focus on early detection and target recurrent disease through a comprehensive, research-based approach starting at the molecular level.

Illustration for the Ovarian Cancer Research program with focus on Detection, Prevention and Treatment

Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States, and is the leading cause of mortality from gynecologic cancer. More than 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.

A Bold New Approach

At the Wayne State University School of Medicine, we are dedicated to a collaborative, team-based approach to academic research that results. The Ovarian Cancer Research Program will have several concurrent research tracks:

Identifying biomarkers that can aid in early detection

Ovarian cancer cells have been shown to epigenetically reprogram a wide variety of cell types in the adjacent tissues to promote tumor growth. Through the investigation of cell transformation from normal to cancerous, we can identify changes in the ovarian microenvironment that signal the development of disease. These early warning signs at the cellular level can be the first step to ensure prompt diagnosis and effective treatment.

Detecting and characterizing residual disease

Most patients that are initially diagnosed with ovarian cancer respond well to first-line standards of care such as surgery and chemotherapy. However, more than 80% of initial responders will present with recurrent disease within 2 to 5 years, resulting in disease progression, metastasis, and terminal diagnoses. Understanding the processes that contribute to recurrent disease – particularly the pathological features distinct to chemoresistant residual cancer cells – will allow researchers to develop new interventions that complement and improve current treatments.

Advancing immunotherapy, drug discovery and drug delivery platforms

There is an urgent need for new treatments for advanced stage, recurring ovarian cancer, and immunotherapy is one of the most promising treatments available. Using the power of the body’s own immune system to prevent, control and eliminate cancerous cells has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. By studying immune-based treatments for patients with ovarian cancer, and translating that research to clinical applications, we can make new strides in the management and treatment of disease.

Commitment to education throughout

The Wayne State University School of Medicine is dedicated to educating the next generation of physician-scientists to achieve health and wellness for our community. Through pioneering research and clinical excellence, and to ensure that research endeavors continue in the next generation, the program will train undergraduate students, residents, and post-doctoral fellows in the detection, prevention and treatment of ovarian cancer. In addition, our researchers will participate in community education programs that support patient-initiated early detection. From genetic risks to early-onset symptoms, we can encourage the most vulnerable in our community to seek care, and ultimately, improve patient outcomes.

Ovarian Cancer Research Program Team