In women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in North America and the second most common gynecological cancer. Largely asymptomatic, over 70% of patients with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease, where five year survival rates are of around 40%. The standard of care for ovarian cancer consists of a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. While many women initially respond, most will relapse and eventually die of their disease. Prof. Mes-Masson, Prof. Rodier and Prof. Masson’s team aims to improve current treatment modalities for ovarian cancer to ensure better outcomes with improved quality of life. Their team has spent the last two decades studying ovarian cancer, developing cell line models of the disease, and assembling one of the largest tumor banks in ovarian cancer.
Collectively, their research points to an ‘Achilles heel’, related to genetic code stability and repair (chromosome defects), in ovarian cancer cells which they will exploit to identify new therapeutic avenues. Their approach is based on new drugs they have developed against a novel target gene called Ran that protect cancer cells with chromosomes defects as well drugs blocking chromosome repair that are in clinical trials or already approved. They are especially interested in drugs that target a protein called PARP, drugs that are already being incorporated into the management of ovarian cancer patient, as well as drugs that influence a cell phenomena known as ‘senescence’, a premature cellular aging caused by anticancer drugs that appear to be important when ovarian cancer cells are exposed to therapeutics. As no approved drugs to date are curative, their team is especially interested in rational combinations that are more effective than mono-therapies.
Not only is the team interested in discovering new therapies, but at the same time this research will inform us on which patients are likely to respond based on tumor characteristics, forming the base of rational patient stratification known as personalized medicine. Their approach has the advantage of improving outcomes while reducing the use of drugs that are not effective for some patients thus improving the overall quality of life in women sparred needless toxic treatments.