COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) has partnered with more than 25 hospitals in Ohio to launch a third statewide clinical cancer research initiative, this one aimed at endometrial cancer.
The initiative has received $1 million in funding support from Pelotonia, the grassroots bicycling event that has raised more than $130 million for cancer research. Other statewide research initiatives focus on colon and lung cancer.
“The goal of our statewide initiative program is to take state-of-the art science and translate it into the communities across Ohio to help elevate cancer patient care, prevention and education and reduce healthcare costs,” says Michael Caligiuri, MD, director of the OSUCCC and chief executive officer of The James. “It is through these efforts that we take bigger steps together toward our pursuit of a cancer-free world.”
Endometrial Cancer in Ohio
The new statewide research initiative – known as The Ohio Prevention and Treatment of Endometrial Cancer (OPTEC) – is focused on the prevention and treatment of endometrial (uterine) cancer. The study is expected to recruit up to 700 Ohio women from at least 25 partner hospitals from communities across the state of Ohio. Patients will be screened for Lynch syndrome and other inherited (passed down through families) genetic mutations linked to an increased risk for endometrial, colon, stomach and ovarian cancer. At the same time, patient tumor samples will undergo molecular profiling to identify treatment approaches personalized to the patient’s unique tumor characteristics.
“Endometrial cancer is one of the few cancers with both rising incidence and death rates in the United States. Escalating our efforts to understand this disease and develop new therapies to treat it is critically important,” says David Cohn, MD, co-principal investigator of the research initiative and director of gynecologic oncology at the OSUCCC – James.
More than 61,000 women are diagnosed with endometrial cancer annually across the United States, with more than 17 percent of patients dying of the disease. Up to 5 percent of all women with endometrial cancer have inherited Lynch syndrome. The lifetime risk for endometrial cancer in a woman with Lynch syndrome is 50 percent, which is 10 times higher than a woman without Lynch syndrome. Women with Lynch syndrome have a similar risk for colon cancer as they do endometrial cancer.
The OPTEC study seeks to test endometrial cancer patients in Ohio for Lynch syndrome using a novel genetic sequencing technique developed by scientists at the OSUCCC – James and Nationwide Children’s Research Institute. The OPTEC initiative will also help Lynch syndrome patients – and at-risk family members – understand the importance of genetic testing and cancer-prevention strategies based on their increased risk for Lynch syndrome-associated cancers.
Researchers will also create a patient registry to track endometrial cancer patients from the current study, colon cancer patients (identified through another statewide cancer research initiative of the OSUCCC – James) as well as affected family members to help increase compliance with follow-up care for cancer prevention.
“Our long term goal is to educate both patients and providers about the continued management of Lynch syndrome-associated cancers so that we can reduce the burden of this condition on all women and men who have this increased risk for cancer based on genetics,” adds Cohn.
Upfront Lynch Syndrome Testing and Genomic Analysis for All Patients
Despite professional recommendations from the Society for Gynecologic Oncology and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology for universal Lynch syndrome screening in endometrial cancer patients, newly diagnosed patients with endometrial cancer are often not screened for Lynch syndrome.
Through this new statewide research study, all participants will receive complete, upfront gene sequencing for free to test for Lynch syndrome and other inherited genetic mutations with known links to cancer.
“In the past, genetic testing for Lynch syndrome was a multi-step process associated with higher costs and delayed results. We have developed a one-step tumor sequencing method that allows us test for inherited genetic mutations rather than relying on sequential screening and testing,” explains Paul Goodfellow, PhD, co-principal investigator of the study and geneticist with the OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program who worked with Elaine Mardis, PhD, of Nationwide Children’s, to develop this sequencing methodology. “We will confirm all inherited Lynch syndrome mutations that are identified in patient tumors with a follow-up test using the patients’ blood DNA in a clinical genetics laboratory.”
Genomic profiling through this statewide research initiative will also help identify patients most likely to benefit from new medical therapies, including immunotherapy drugs that target PD-1. The drugs that target PD-1 have emerged in recent years as promising and effective approaches to treating solid tumors from patients with Lynch syndrome.
“More than 20 percent of endometrial cancers have ‘Lynch syndrome-like’ molecular features, and as such, are likely to respond to anti-PD-1 drugs,” says Goodfellow. “For far too long treatment strategies and testing new drugs for endometrial cancer have not considered the differences in the genetic makeup of the tumor. This new study puts us in a position to make rapid progress in understanding and treating endometrial cancer through genomics-driven treatments.”
Statewide Cancer Initiatives
The OPTEC project represents the third statewide Initiative project launched by the OSUCCC-James with funding from Pelotonia. Other Pelotonia-funded statewide cancer research projects include The Ohio Colorectal Cancer Screening and Prevention Initiative, led by Heather Hampel, MS, LGC, and Beating Lung Cancer in Ohio, co-led by Peter Shields, MD, David Carbone, MD, PhD and Mary Ellen Wewers, PhD, MPH.
Learn more about Pelotonia-funded research at the OSUCCC – James at cancer.osu.edu.
Amanda J. Harper
OSUCCC – James Media Relations