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BRCA 1 Status May Guide Treatment for Ovarian Cancer Patients, Magee-Womens Research Institute Study Finds

SAN FRANCISCO, March 14, 2010 – Ovarian cancer patients with lower levels of BRCA 1 are more likely than patients with high levels to benefit from chemotherapy delivered directly into the abdomen, or intraperitoneal chemotherapy (IP), according to a Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) and University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) study being presented today at the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists 41st Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancers in San Francisco.

The side effects of IP chemotherapy can cause significant difficulty for patients, and some patients are unable to complete their course of treatment. Because IP chemotherapy can be so rigorous, identifying the patient population most likely to benefit from it is important, according to Jamie Lesnock, M.D., a fellow in the division of gynecologic oncology at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

“Ovarian cancer has few symptoms in its early stages, and because of this patients often are diagnosed after the disease has already spread,” said Dr. Lesnock. “Currently, we know that patients respond in very different ways to chemotherapy. If we can know ahead of time whether or not a patient will benefit from IP chemotherapy, it could help us improve outcomes.”

The study examined the levels of BRCA 1 expression, a gene associated with higher rates of breast and ovarian cancers in women, and other cancers for both genders. The research was conducted by Dr. Lesnock under the direction of Thomas C. Krivak, M.D., Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship Director at Magee. Drs. Lesnock and Krivak collaborated with the GOG to perform an analysis of 393 ovarian cancer patients who previously participated in a phase 3 clinical trial that compared the effectiveness of traditional chemotherapy delivery to IP chemotherapy. According to the results, patients with low expression of the BRCA 1 protein were more likely to respond well to IP chemotherapy than those with high expression.

“This is potentially another small step toward personalized treatment for ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Krivak.

Each year, approximately 21,550 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and approximately 15,000 will die from the disease. It currently ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death among women.

This study was supported by funds from the Scaife Foundation, Pittsburgh, Pa.

About MWRI

As the first research institute to focus exclusively on the health of women and their families, Magee-Womens Research Institute examines biological and societal factors specific to women and their impact on health. Areas of study include pregnancy complications, infectious diseases, gynecology, cancers, and more.

With a deep passion for women’s health, the Institute has emerged as a world hub of gender-specific research. Its basic and clinical scientists are dedicated to translating their discoveries into improved health for women at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

The Institute’s success is attributed in great measure to the philanthropic vision of Magee-Womens Foundation and generous support from the Pittsburgh region. Financial contributions to the Foundation have helped Magee improve and save the lives of countless women and infants.

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