The Rivkin Center Announces the Lester and Bernice Smith Fellow and Recipient of its 2011-2012 Scientific Challenge Grant
With a generous underwriting gift from the Lester and Bernice Smith Foundation, the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research announced in 2011 a new $150,000 Scientific Challenge Grant focused on the origins of ovarian cancer with the goal of accelerating the early detection of the disease. This first-ever offered, two-year award will be focused specifically on increasing understanding of the cellular, molecular, and genetic origins of ovarian cancer.
Today, the Rivkin Center is delighted to announce that Professor David Bowtell at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center in Melbourne, Australia has been selected as the Lester and Bernice Smith Fellow and recipient of the Scientific Challenge Grant. His proposed project is entitled "Circulating TP53 mutations as a biomarker of high-grade serous cancer." Dr. Bowtell leads the Cancer Genetics & Genomics Program at "Peter Mac" as the Center is more commonly known. Peter Mac provides quality treatment and support to patients and families as Australia's foremost cancer center as well as conducts the country's leading research in cancer.
In his proposed project, Dr. Bowtell will use the latest, most sensitive DNA sequencing techniques to study whether ovarian cancer tumors give off enough DNA into circulating blood to use as an early detection tool. Specifically, the TP53 gene will be examined. The TP53 gene normally functions as a tumor suppressor gene, causing cells to stop dividing when genetic mutations are detected in the cell. However, when this important gene itself is mutated, the body has one less sentinel to curb the growth of rapidly dividing cancer cells and thereby more genetic mutations can accumulate in newly divided cells.
Damage to the TP53 gene occurs in essentially 100% of serous ovarian cancers, the most common type of fatal ovarian cancer, and occurs early in the development of the disease. In fact, TP53 mutation is the earliest molecular lesion yet identified in high grade serous cancers, present in intense staining of the fallopian tubes called "p53 signatures." This finding agrees with the most current understanding of serous ovarian cancer which places the origin of this cancer at the fallopian tubes rather than in the ovaries.
As a tumor grows, some cells die and release their DNA into circulating blood, including DNA encoding mutated genes. The proposed project by Dr. Bowtell will determine whether circulating TP53 can be detected in circulating blood using advanced genomic techniques. If successful, this novel approach will provide an important diagnostic tool for early detection of serous ovarian cancer – the most common and deadly type of ovarian cancer.
For more information please contact Dr. Wendy Law, Director of Scientific Programs at the Rivkin Center, at 206-215-2964.