Using Immuno-Therapy to Prevent the Spread of Ovarian Cancer
Francine Foss, M.D.,Professor in the Yale Cancer Center
More than 25,000 women develop ovarian cancer each year in the United States, yet available chemotherapy treatments that stem the progression of the disease often are not effective in preventing recurrence. Dr. Foss study focused on immunotherapy (stimulation of the immune system to fight tumor cells) as a potentially promising new way of treating advanced or recurrent ovarian cancer.
Highlighted Study Findings
Dr. Foss has isolated and characterized the nature of the immune cells from the ascites, or fluid which builds up in the abdomen of ovarian cancer patients. She and her team investigated the nature of these immune cells in patients. Dr. Foss found that only one in three patients had evidence of an active response by killer T-cells that attack and destroy tumor cells, whereas the other patients had predominately immunoregulatory or suppressive T-cells. This discovery supported her view of the importance of increasing the killer T-cell response in the immune system. She then isolated other cells, called dendritic cells, from the abdominal fluid and exposed them to a novel process developed to provide “instructions” on how to attack harmful cancer cells. The results showed that over half the cells became activated and, thus, capable of stimulating T-cells. Dr. Foss is using this new information to develop drug immunotherapies to increase and harness the power of individual patients’ killer T-cells to combat ovarian cancer.