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Fox Chase Cancer Center Receives Special NCI Grant for Innovative, Multidisciplinary Research on Ovarian Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (November 1, 1999) -- The National Cancer Institute has selected Fox Chase Cancer Center to receive an NCI grant for a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer. The five-year grant is one of four awarded to NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers to fund ovarian cancer research.

Fox Chase is the only center in Pennsylvania and on the entire East Coast to receive a SPORE grant for ovarian cancer. NCI has designed SPORE grants to support innovative, multidisciplinary research approaches that potentially may have an immediate impact on improving cancer care and prevention. First-year funding for Fox Chase is $828,000.

The grant will fund Fox Chase research projects that focus on translating basic research findings from the laboratory to clinical settings. The goal of this "translational" research is to discover methods of earlier detection and improved prevention and treatments for this deadly disease.

Robert F. Ozols, M.D., Ph.D., of New Hope, Pa., senior vice president for medical science at Fox Chase, is principal investigator for the SPORE grant. He is internationally recognized for his research to improve treatment for ovarian cancer by developing more effective approaches to chemotherapy.

The co-principal investigator for the grant is Thomas C. Hamilton, Ph.D., of Perkasie, Pa. He leads the ovarian cancer research program at Fox Chase and is one of the world's foremost experts on the biology of this cancer.

"Despite recent treatment improvements, ovarian cancer remains the number one gynecologic killer in the United States," Ozols said. "One reason is that it often produces few symptoms until the disease has advanced. The SPORE grant will expand our research effort and combine clinical trials and laboratory studies."

Ovarian cancer affects about 25,000 American women annually. An estimated 14,500 will die of the disease in 1999.

The grant allows Fox Chase to build on and enhance its current strengths in ovarian cancer research.

"The Fox Chase research program has already identified new genes involved in the cause and progression of ovarian cancer," Ozols pointed out. "Our clinical trials have led to new and improved chemotherapy for women with early-stage cancer and those with advanced disease."

"All the research projects will be jointly directed by a clinical and a laboratory researcher to facilitate rapid clinical development of new findings," Ozols said.

Four research projects will focus on improving treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.

  1. A clinical study will use preventive medicine, known as chemoprevention, in high-risk women.
  2. Another study will use computer models of drug metabolism and other drug effects to design the most effective treatment programs.
  3. One laboratory project will look at molecular aspects of ovarian cancer that becomes resistant to anticancer drugs.
  4. Another laboratory study will help develop a gene-based therapy for ovarian cancer.

Three research projects will focus on studies of carcinogenesis, to learn how ovarian cancer develops. These will include research on the molecular pathways involved in ovarian cancer and on biological markers, or biomarkers, that reveal its presence.

Biomarkers are cellular indicators of the development and progression of a disease. They may serve as chemoprevention targets and may also help detect ovarian cancer earlier.

As one of the core support programs, Fox Chase will establish an Ovarian Cancer Clinical Network linking Fox Chase efforts with those at the University of Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and other institutions. This network will aim to increase participation in treatment trials for women with ovarian cancer and clinical chemoprevention trials for high-risk women.

Another core support program will be a Genetic Susceptibility Testing Laboratory to screen for gene alterations associated with ovarian cancer. To identify women who are eligible for a chemoprevention trial, genetic testing initially will focus on the two most common breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are also associated with ovarian cancer.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 36 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers. Its activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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