Dr KK Wong in a white coat, wearing a mask beside an image of cancer

Research Grant Awarded to MD Anderson Cancer Center

Project title: Estrogen Signaling in Low-Grade Serous Carcinoma (LGSOC)
Research Institute: MD Anderson Cancer Center
Lead Researcher: Dr KK Wong PhD, Professor
Start date: June 2021
Project cost: $70 000
Funded by: Cure Our Ovarian Cancer and STAAR Ovarian Cancer Foundation

Cure Our Ovarian Cancer and our US Charity Partners STAAR Ovarian Cancer are proud to announce the funding of our first US based research grant at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

MD Anderson Cancer Center are world leaders in low-grade serous carcinoma (LGSC) research. They were instrumental in helping identify LGSC as a unique cancer in 2004. In addition their research has formed the basis for many of the current LGSC treatment recommendations. In 2018 they added LGSC to their Cancer Moon Shots Program.

Cure Our Ovarian Cancer and STAAR Ovarian Cancer have jointly contributed $70 000 to the project entitled: Estrogen Signaling in Low-Grade Serous Carcinoma (LGSC). The project seeks to better understand how LGSC can use estrogen to grow and spread – and identify potential targets to improve treatment options.

“This is a unique opportunity to study the complex and elusive estrogen receptor signaling pathway in low-grade serous ovarian cancer, which would hopefully result in a successful and improved anti-hormone therapy.” – Dr Wong

Estrogens are major regulators of growth and differentiation in normal ovaries and potentially play a role in the development and progression of ovarian cancer, but the mechanisms of action remain unclear.

The actions of estrogens on ovarian tissue are mediated by estrogen receptors. There are two major types of estrogen receptors – ERα and ERβ. Furthermore, multiple variants of the ERα have been identified in LGSC. The types of estrogen receptors found in LGSC are different from those in normal ovary.

Hormonal maintenance therapies (HMT) have improved the progression-free survival of patients with recurrent low-grade ovarian cancer, but unfortunately, these treatments have not achieved comparable results as in breast cancer.

Preliminary data suggests that estrogen signalling is unique in low-grade serous cancer, and there is a need to further explore and understand the mechanisms underpinning it, which could provide new and clinically relevant insights regarding the role of estrogen in low-grade serous ovarian cancer.

Researchers will use advanced genetic sequencing and laboratory techniques to identify the specific type of estrogen receptors involved in LGSC (which they think will differ from breast cancer) and investigate the molecular and genetic characteristics involved in its expression.

The study has the potential to find biomarkers to predict response to HMT, in addition to insights which researchers hope will guide future research to help HMT work better.

Dr Ng and Dr Wong in their laboratory at MD Anderson

Professor Wong and post doctoral researcher Dr Ng in their laboratory at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Last year Nicole joined our September Step Up event – the funds she raised along with others with this disease and hundreds of generous members of the public, helped make this grant possible. She writes:

Being diagnosed with Low Grade Serous Cancer (LGSC), a rare form of ovarian cancer, was shocking. I felt scared, shut down, and out of control. The Step-Up Campaign gave me the opportunity to transform my thoughts and fears into constructive energy and focus on creating a positive future. I’m honored that my friends and family “stepped up” alongside me and helped me exceed my fundraising goal. While it’s unusual to know how funds you raise are used, I was thrilled to learn our donations are already working to help researchers understand why and how LGSC uses estrogen so that enhanced treatment options can be developed. My deepest thanks to all working tirelessly to improve outcomes for LGSC survivors, bringing invaluable hope and healing to me and my fellow LGSC sisters.

About the Charities

Cure Our Ovarian Cancer Teal Heart LogoCure Our Ovarian Cancer (COOC) is a global charity dedicated to improving the survival of people with LGSC through research. It was founded in 2018 by New Zealand woman Jane Ludemann following her diagnosis. Today COOC supports researchers in five countries, including the United States of America.

STAAR Ovarian Cancer Foundation Logo with teal starSTAAR Ovarian Cancer Foundation is an American charity founded by LGSC women Jess BeCraft, Bailey Wolfe and Alex Feldt in 2020. STAAR exists to raise crucial funds for low-grade serous cancer research. They work closely with Cure Our Ovarian Cancer to advance research in America.