Stem cell factor could improve ovarian cancer prognosis

New ovarian cancer research could lay the foundation for more targeted therapies, increasing the survival rate for patients. Ovarian cancer, the fifth most common cause of cancer death overall in women in the U.S., is disproportionately deadly because it lacks clear symptoms and no imaging or blood tests exist to screen for the disease.

In a recent study, researchers at Yale School of Medicine identified a key link between stem cell factors that fuel ovarian cancer's growth and patient prognosis. The study is published online in the January issue of Cell Cycle.

Researchers connected two concepts of treating tumor growth in women with ovarian cancer: the "cancer stem cell" idea and the "seed and soil" notion. The first suggests that at the heart of every tumor there is a small subset of difficult-to-identify tumor cells that fuel the growth of the bulk of the tumor. Using this concept, scientists predict that ordinary therapies typically kill most tumor cells but leave behind a rich environment for continued growth of the stem cell tumor population. The second concept, "seed and soil," emphasizes the tumor cells' so-called microenvironment, the special environment required for cancer cell growth and spread.

Researchers say both methods are relevant for treating ovarian cancer, which has been notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat.

"Ovarian cancer patients are plagued by recurrences of tumor cells that are resistant to chemotherapy, ultimately leading to uncontrolled cancer growth and death," said study co-author Nita Maihle, a professor in Yale's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences and a member of Yale Cancer Center, in a press release.

- here's the press release
- read the study abstract

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