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Genetic Clues May Lead to New Vaccines for Ovarian Cancer

Dr. Brad Nelson, OVCARE researcher and Director of the BC Cancer Agency’s Deeley Research Centre, has just published in the Journal of Pathology the results of a collaborative study that provides new insight into high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC), the most common and fatal form of ovarian cancer.  While most tumours respond well to surgery and chemotherapy, the majority of HGSC patients experience recurrence of treatment-resistant tumours, and the mutations associated with recurrence are poorly understood.

The research team, led by Drs. Brad Nelson and Rob Holt, performed genomic sequencing on tumour cells of three patients at primary, first and second recurrence in order to compare mutations to healthy DNA over time. Their results proved—for the very first time—that recurrent HGSC arises from multiple clones present in the primary tumour, with very few new mutations in recurrent tumours, even after two rounds of treatment. The stability of the disease over time offers hope of identifying new therapeutic targets and ultimately preventing the tumours from recurring. Additionally, the researchers discovered commonalities among mutations that may point the way to more effective, targeted treatments. In particular, Dr. Nelson’s team intends to use genomic sequencing information to develop customized vaccines for each patient. These vaccines will educate the patient’s immune system to recognize and destroy mutation-containing cancer cells.

The Deeley Research Centre is the leading facility in Canada for research on cancer immunotherapy. Led by Dr. Nelson, this innovative research will facilitate the development of vaccines that boost the natural immune response to cancer, thereby helping to naturally eliminate cancer cells throughout the body.

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Partners:

VGH/UBC Vancouver Coastal Health BC Cancer Foundation BC Cancer Agency UBC Faculty of Medicine