A new test allows for patient-specific monitoring and treatment of ovarian cancer

Around 870 cases of cancer of the ovary are reported to Belgium each year. Patients are treated with chemotherapy and surgical interventions. Although there have been some recent advancements in the treatment of cancer of the ovary, molecular-specific immunotherapy and immunotherapy are not yet proven effective. A new test developed by Professor Abhishek Garg’s lab in collaboration with Professor An Coosemans, could change the situation. The so-called “sFIS” test is a method to measure specific immuno-biomarkers that can be used to determine the extent of the patient’s survival and effectiveness in ovarian cancer treatment. This way, a patient can be monitored in a specific manner and receive specific (immuno)therapy.

Immunotherapy is a collective term for treatments to fight cancer that activate the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells and it has recently been recognized as a game-changing treatment option to prolong patient survival for various types of cancer. There are a myriad of immunotherapies that can be utilized to treat cancer of the ovary. However they haven’t been as effective as those for other types of cancer such as melanoma and lung cancer. Due to the immune-resistant nature and the high degree of range of ovarian cancers, not all treatments work for all patients. This is where the use of qualitative biomarkers, which allow patients to be classified into distinct categories to receive the best treatment and care, may be key to success.

Qualitative versus quantitative

The majority of biomarkers are selected for cancer patient management or decision-making due to the fact that they are present in huge amounts, either in the tumor itself or in blood.

However, this does not necessarily indicate that a biomarker performs the same function or activity in a greater amount. Our team was interested in understanding the true rhythms and fluctuations of treatment or survival-relevant pathways. Therefore, we looked for specific, dynamic biomarkers that can help patients increase their chances of survival. The sFIS assay method has been applied for the first time with cancer of the ovary, but it will also be tested on other types of cancer.”

Professor Abhishek D.Garg

The answer lies in your blood.

“Based on the results of the test, we will be able to assist doctors in drafting a monitoring and treatment plan that is specific to certain populations of patients,” says PhD student Jenny Sprooten. The test uses the serum, which is the liquid portion of your blood that will no longer clot. It is then added to each patient’s cells in the laboratory. “Because every tumor has its own unique fingerprint in the serum, every cell will react differently. Professor Coosemans says: “Based upon this, we can determine the prognosis of the patient and recommend the best treatment.”

Clinical studies

UZ Leuven has already begun the first clinical trials on patients suffering from ovarian carcinoma. The research will soon be extended to allow further valorization and validation of the assay. If everything goes according to plan it will be possible to utilize the test in 3 to 5 years.

Journal reference:

Sprooten, J., and. (2021) Peripherally-driven myeloid NFkB responses and IFN/ISG predict the risk of malignancy survival, and the treatment regimen for ovarian cancer. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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