Funds raised by the Ovarian Awareness Event activities are used to support ovarian cancer research at Duke University Medical Center. The main focus of the Gynecologic Oncology laboratory research group is molecular studies that aim to elucidate the etiology of ovarian cancer. Researchers believe that this fundamental knowledge is needed to facilitate advances in early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer. The Division of Gynecologic Oncology has numberous active clinical trials that address new approaches to ovarian cancer treatment.
The Duke Ovarian Cancer Research Program is at the forefront of research exploring the genetic and molecular causes of the disease. The multidisciplinary research team at Duke includes Gynecologic Oncology physicians who care for women with ovarian cancer, molecular biologists, statisticians, epidemiologists and nurses, who are all working together in this endeavor. Through these concerted efforts we have established several large research projects. Among the most notable of these is the North Carolina Ovarian Cancer Study, which has recruited 2,500 women in the past 10 years. Subjects undergo an in depth interview in their homes about ovarian cancer risk factors, and we also obtain blood and ovarian cancer tissue samples. Simultaneous consideration of behavioral risk factors, genetic susceptibility and molecular changes promises to provide a much more complete picture of the causes of ovarian cancer and how they differ between patients. It is our hope that a better understanding of the complex causes of ovarian cancer will lead to the development of effective screening and early detection programs as well as ways of preventing the disease. In addition, research using microarrays that assess global changed in gene expression have identified biological pathways that are altered in some ovarian cancers. Clinical trials using agents that target these pathways are being conducted at Duke.
Although our work is funded by the National Cancer Institute and other agencies, these funds do not cover all the costs of research. Funds raised by the Ovarian Awareness Event have been used to buy much needed equipment in the laboratory as well as to provide start up money for a new faculty member, Susan Murphy, Ph.D. who was recruited in 2003. Dr. Murphy is a molecular biologist examining the role of “imprinted” genes in the development of ovarian cancer. The initial funding provided by the Ovarian Awareness Walk has allowed her to initiate this work and she subsequently received 4 other grants from external funding agencies in 2004. The funds raised will continue to fuel growth of the Gynecologic Oncology Program in the future as they work towards decreasing ovarian cancer incidence and mortality.
Donations from individual donors and corporations, like those raised at the annual ovarian awareness walk, are critically important in assuring that this important research can move ahead optimally. The goal is to reduce ovarian cancer deaths through research that leads to improvements in early detection, treatment and prevention!