Animal model moves researchers towards being able to run human trials for ovarian cancer research

HHNSProf. Jim Petrik, University of Guelph Dept. of Biomedical Sciences, acknowledges that clinical signs of ovarian cancer are subtle and often hard to detect during early stages of the disease. This puts many patients in danger of not receiving treatment in time – which would reduce detrimental symptoms from occurring along with stopping the cancer from spreading.

Petrik says, “One of the reasons why ovarian cancer is so misunderstood is because there has been no animal model put forth that would provide a deeper comprehension of the diseases’ development – until now.”

Petrik developed an animal model that closely simulates ovarian cancer in women. Using mice as his animal model, he’s found that there’s a protein – thrombospondin – that can actually induce the regression of a tumour.

When tumours form, they have the ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. However, when tumours grow blood vessels too rapidly malformations occur. The protein, thrombospondin, is partially responsible for killing off abnormal blood vessels in the body, leaving the healthy ones behind. Petrik says that the creation of an optimal combination therapy, using the protein and other treatments to induce tumor regression, will reveal that they’re ready for human trials.

This research will lend a significant hand in reducing the difficulty of detecting tumours and ovarian cancer in their early stages of development.

Funding is provided by  the Natural Science and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Collaborators for this research include Prof. Jack Lawler, Harvard University and Jack Henkin, of Abbott Labs: Global Health Care and Medical Research, Illinois.

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