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IU Bloomington researcher working to reveal genetic clues behind long-term survival in ovarian cancer

June 1, 2016

Although not as common as some forms of cancer in the U.S., ovarian cancer ranks among the top causes of cancer death in women. It’s notoriously difficult to detect early, and most women who receive an advanced stage diagnosis do not survive more than five years.

kenneth p. nephew

IU Bloomington researcher Kenneth P. Nephew | PHOTO BY CHRIS MEYER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

But a small percentage of patients live far longer. To find out why, IU Bloomington researcher Kenneth P. Nephew is a part of the Ovarian Cancer Consortium for Long-Term Survival, which recently received “Phase II” funding from the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program.

As a co-investigator in the consortium, Nephew is working to help more women join the ranks of these long-term survivors. He will investigate and describe the epigenome of tumors from ovarian cancer survivors who have survived 10 or more years following a diagnosis of advanced stage ovarian cancer.

“We’re working to reveal the secrets of these tumors to find out what makes these women genetically unique,” said Nephew, a professor of cellular and integrative physiology and obstetrics and gynecology in the Medical Sciences Program at the IU School of Medicine-Bloomington. “We want to identify these genetic differences, and build upon this knowledge to work toward improving the long-term survival and quality of life for all women impacted by this disease.”

This work will be accomplished through DNA methylation profiling and bioinformatics analysis. Data from Nephew’s lab will be integrated with other data collection projects within the consortium, which includes seven research sites across the United States and Europe as well as the active support from 11 patient advocates representing 11 partnering foundations that support patients. The ultimate goal of the consortium is to identify a biologic molecular and psychosocial pattern that can predict long-term survival.

The Ovarian Cancer Consortium for Long-Term Survival is led by Dr. Michael Birrer of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. The consortium also leverages the resources of the Gynecologic Oncology Group from the NRG Oncology Foundation .

Nephew is also a fellow at the Indiana Molecular Biology Institute and a member of the IU Simon Cancer Center.

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