Ovarian Cancer is the single most lethal cancer for women, and the chances of a patient relapsing are quite high.
UConn Health has pioneered a new vaccine that could prevent the disease from becoming a death sentence.
For three decades, UConn Health Dr. Pramod Srivastava has dedicated much of his career to figuring out how to combat Ovarian Cancer.
“Symptoms are quite vague…abdominal bloating, discomfort, pelvic pain,” he said.
Since there are no warning signs or early screening tests, about 70 percent of diagnosed cases have already advanced to stage three or four.
“So, women undergo surgery and they do chemotherapy…and most women respond to both these treatments,” Srivastava said.
Yet, with an 85 percent to 90 percent recurrence rate, the odds are still stacked against them.
“Within about two years, the disease recurs. At that point, we don’t have good options,” Srivastava said.
Srivastava and his team have been working on a first-of-its-kind vaccine called “Oncoimmunome.”
“What we’re trying to do here is to make a cancer drug that is truly specific for cancer,” Srivastava said.
By taking samples of the patient’s DNA, which include cancerous and non-cancerous cells, scientists are able to pinpoint the most important genetic differences. They are also able to create an individualized vaccine.
“A vaccine that would target only these differences. Obviously these differences are not in normal cells, so they’d leave the normal body alone and target only the cancer,” Srivastava said.
Clinical trials for this personalized vaccine are expected to start as early as next week.
UConn Health will closely follow 15 local women, ranging in age from 40 to 70 years old.
“We’ll do this for six months…and we’ll see how their immune system is responding,” Srivastava said.
If the results are promising, Srivastava said “This approach should be usable for any cancer…bladder cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer…lung cancer…breast cancer. So this is just the beginning of a journey.”
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