UC Davis researcher Gary Leisorowitz was recently awarded $900,000 to formulate a diagnostic test for ovarian cancer. The test aims to detect ovarian cancer at its preliminary stages. The grant was given by the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
Leisorowitz, along with fellow researcher Professor Carlito Lebrilla, has been working mostly with glycomics analysis to aid in cancer diagnosis. The glycomics analysis is used as a biomarker that would compare changes in this serum in women who have ovarian cancer versus healthy women.
“The technique for this is currently providing very promising results but the preliminary results require extensive clinical validation before it can actually be said that a new ovarian cancer blood test has been developed,” Leisorowitz said.
He said the grant money will be used to “do clinical validation of the study and to better understand the pathogenesis for these aberrant glycans that decorate glycoproteins.“
The ultimate goal of the ongoing study would be to develop a test for ovarian cancer that is more accurate than those currently available, Leisorowitz said.
The clinical evaluation involving the glycomics analysis is a very specific study.
“Our approach differs from many because we look at a special type of posttranslational modification on proteins. Glycosylation is the addition of short sugar chains (Glycans) on proteins. There are over 50 years of [research] that show the sugar chains differ in cancer [cells] versus normal [cells],” said Lebrilla, a UC Davis chemistry professor who created the glycomics technology along with the help of his lab.
Leisorowitz recognizes the concerns that come along with ovarian cancer and thus understands the urgency of developing a diagnostic test that could potentially improve overall survival in these patients.
“Ovarian cancer is the third most common gynecologic cancer that afflicts women in the U.S. Unfortunately, it is also the most deadly. Over 75 percent of women with ovarian cancer will [be living with the] advanced stage disease, and the five-year survival is only about 20 to 30 percent.
“In contrast, early stage ovarian cancer has an 80 to 90 percent five-year survival,” Leisorowitz said.
In the future, Leisorowitz and his co-researchers hope that this research can open the door to new diagnostic tests and potentially improve the understanding of ovarian cancer and the way in which it develops. They hope the research would then assist in creating therapeutic tools.
SADAF MOGHIMI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.