Study Shifts Focus of Ovarian Cancer to Fallopian Tubes

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, a very common form of ovarian cancer may actually find its beginnings in the fallopian tubes, the tube that eggs use to move from the ovaries the uterus.

In a press release from The Johns Hopkins University, researchers note that less than 30% of ovarian cancer patients survive 10 years, a statistic that might be improved with earlier detection. Diagnosis in many ovarian cancer patients comes too late for treatment to be effective. Finding out that the disease may have an earlier origin in another part of the body may lead to earlier detection and improved outcomes for patients.

High-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC) is the most common type of ovarian cancer. Changing the focus from the ovaries to the fallopian tubes would be a big change in philosophy in the battle agains HGSOC. A new method of detection might also come from some of this research. Thus giving health care providers the incalculable benefit of time.

“Ovarian cancer treatments have not changed much in many decades, and this may be, in part, because we have been studying the wrong tissue of origin
for these cancers,”
— Victor Velculescu, M.D., Ph.D., study author

The study was a small and included 9 women (5 of which had HGSOC). Researchers collected tissue samples from normal and cancer-infected cells. Utilizing genomic studies, the researchers were able to determine that HGSOC in the ovaries was preceded by a change in the DNA of cells that are found in the fallopian tubes, a precursor to ovarian cancer.

HGSOC is responsible for about 75% of the nearly 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer diagnose each year in the United States.Researchers believe tumors originate in the fallopian tubes and take about 6.5 years to become HGSOC. For many patients, HGSOC progresses to a metastatic disease within 2 years of it reaching the ovary. By the time many of these patients are diagnosed, the disease has spread and the outcome is not as favorable.

Early stage ovarian cancer may or may not present with symptoms. If symptoms occur the most likely include: abdominal pain, bloating, pelvic pain, increase in the need to urinate, decrease in appetite and feelings of fulness in the stomach. These are all symptoms of other diseases, but in ovarian cancer, they are a change from the status quo and are more severe and consistent in their appearance. If a woman has these symptoms more than 12 times per month she should see her gynecologist.

In 2017, over 14,000 women died from ovarian cancer. Although the diagnosis rate of ovarian cancer has gone down over the past two decades, the treatment outcomes have not shared the same success. The discovery that ovarian cancer may actually come from the fallopian tubes is a dramatic turn of events and will spur more studies. Eventually this discover will shape new, more efficacious ways of defeating HGSOC.

Donald Blake

Donald Blake

Donald Blake has a BS in Communication Studies. He has a lengthy tenure in the healthcare, media and education fields. He is dedicated to improving the lives of those with rare diseases through his knowledge of healthcare and communications.

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