Dr Nina Wietek – pre-cancerous lesions in ovarian cancer

Dr Nina Wietek, University of Oxford: A novel method of identifying pre-cancerous lesions in ovarian cancer

£20,000 over 7 months

Worldwide, almost 220,000 women are newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and out of these about 150,000 die within 5 years of diagnosis. This makes ovarian cancer the most lethal gynaecological malignancy.  Late diagnosis is a key contributing factor to this high fatality, and this can partly be attributed to a limited understanding of the natural history of the disease. In order to better understand how precursor cells develop into tumours, key molecular events need to be identified in the progression from normal tissue to pre-cancer to cancer.

In current practice, detection of the putative precursor lesion known as serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma or serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma (STIC) remains a challenge and little is known about their role. The present method of detection requires the tissue to be formalin-fixed and embedded in paraffin (a wax), which is known to significantly interfere with current genetic analysis methods and therefore isn’t conducive to high quality genomic characterisation of these lesions. This pilot study aims to develop a method of identification of STICs in fresh tissue. The identification of STICs in fresh samples would offer a considerable advantage as it would enable us to characterise their genetic make-up in the future, and ultimately give us a better understanding of the key initiating factors in ovarian cancer. In future this may translate into the identification of markers that could be used for early detection and prevention methods for women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer.

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