Dr David Jeevan – Improving early diagnosis and therapy in ovarian cancer

Dr David Jeevan, University of Birmingham: Unravelling the steroid metabolome in ovarian cancer to improve early diagnosis and therapy

£181,956 over 24 months

Every year ovarian cancer kills over 4000 women in the UK and 7000 women will be newly diagnosed with the disease. The lifetime risk of ovarian cancer in all women is 1 in 52. Doctors and scientists are searching to find better ways to diagnose and treat these patients. Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because women only show signs of the disease when the cancer is very advanced. These patients then need major surgery and chemotherapy but this will extend their life only by around 5 years. GPs experience difficulty making an earlier diagnosis because the symptoms are non-specific and even then current tests often fail to pick up early cancers. Steroids are naturally found in the body and they control many functions and the ovaries are very involved in their production. Some steroids (estrogen and testosterone) have been suspected in the spread of ovarian cancer but little scientific work has been done to investigate the much larger pool of steroids. At the University of Birmingham we will test if ovarian cancer causes changes in steroid production and find out how it happens. We will look at the human genes that may increase or decrease the quantity of steroids made. This will increase our understanding about ovarian cancer. If our work is successful, we hope to develop proof of a new test for ovarian cancer by looking at steroid profiles in urine samples. This could lead to saving thousands of women’s lives.