Ovarian Cancer Vaccine

May 27, 2009 7:23:43 PM PDT
Each year, about 25,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Many already have advanced disease by the time they get that diagnosis. Because there is no good screening test and the cancer is often caught too late, overall survival is about 25 percent. A new discovery may improve those odds.Happily married with two healthy kids, Jill Kisker was living a charmed life.

"The best thing that ever happened to me was having my kids," Kisker told Ivanhoe.

Then the worst thing happened. Three years ago, Kisker was diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer.

"I just thought, my kids are so little," Kisker said. "This just can't be true. How did this happen? How did I get here?"

Determined to beat the odds, she had surgery, six rounds of chemo and joined a study on an experimental vaccine. Kunle Odunsi, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., is testing a vaccine that targets and destroys a specific protein usually found in adult male testes but is also found on ovarian cancer cells.

"We're able to generate very robust immune responses," Dr. Odunsi told Ivanhoe.

In a study of 22 women, 70 percent had a positive response to the vaccine.

"I think it's highly promising," Dr. Odunsi said.

In another study in women who already had several recurrences, the vaccine delayed their next relapse by nearly two years.

"The ultimate goal here is that this will translate into prevention of relapse altogether and therefore prolongation of overall survival," Dr. Odunsi said.

Three years later, Kisker is still cancer-free. But she knows she's not out of the woods.

"Whatever I have to do to be here, I'll do it, as long as I'm here," she said.

Because for her, anything else is simply not an option.

In the study, the vaccine was given as an injection once a month for seven months. Dr. Odunsi says he has seen no side effects in any women who have received the vaccine other than a little redness at the injection site.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Deborah Pettibone
(716) 868-6182
Deborah.pettibone@roswellpark.org

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