New Route for the Spread of Ovarian Cancer

Just last month a woman in the UK died of ovarian cancer just after four days of the doctor’s diagnosis. She only complained of symptoms one week before, which was a pain in her side. Doctors had found that it had spread to her liver, lungs and stomach. She was not well enough to undergo chemotherapy.

According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, more than 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and approximately 15,000 women die annually from the disease. Most cases are diagnosed in the late stages when the outcome is poor. In the later stages, ovarian cancer tends to spread to other organs. However, the five-year survival rate is over 90 percent if the disease is caught when solely confined to the ovary.

But new research has defined the circulation of tumor cells that spread ovarian cancer throughout the bloodstream, honing in on a sheath of abdominal fatty tissues where it can grow and metastasize to other organs according to a news release from scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center report in Cancer Cell.

The researchers found the circulating tumor cells (CTCs) rely on HER3, a less-famous sibling of the HER2 receptor protein prominent in some breast cancers, to find their way to the omentum, a sheet of tissue that covers and supports abdominal organ.

HER3’s heavy presence on these cells makes it a biomarker candidate and suggests possible therapeutic options to thwart ovarian cancer progression, the researchers noted.

“The CTCs are not just a correlation, they seem to have a functionally important role in metastasis,” said senior author Anil Sood, M.D., professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and Cancer Biology.

Higher expression of HER3 in ovarian cancer tumors is associated with shorter survival, the team found. Ovarian cancer has been thought mainly to spread via direct surface contact with neighboring organs in the abdominal cavity.

“However, it also metastasizes to more distant organs such as the liver and spleen, which seems to indicate arrival through the bloodstream,” said Sood.

Click on the link for Anderson Cancer Center for more detail describing the mouse model used and its successful study.

There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. Pap tests and pelvic exams will not identify the disease so it is important to recognize symptoms even though they may be confused with other problems.

Mayo Clinic provides the following signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Quickly feeling full when eating
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort in the pelvis area
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • A frequent need to urinate

Because ovarian cancer is different depending on the stage and how aggressive the cancer is, every life insurance evaluation may be different.

It is important to talk to a qualified agent that has experience with higher risk policies or with guaranteed acceptance life insurance policies that do not require medical questions or a physical exam.

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