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Endometrial cancer research focus of $1.7 million grant

Washington University has received $1.7 million to study the genetic changes related to the diagnosis and treatment of endometrial and related cancers

March 5, 2010

Research funded by a $1.7 million Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant awarded to Washington University School of Medicine and the Siteman Cancer Center is focusing on new approaches to identify and treat endometrial and related cancers. The support is enabling  genomics, diagnostics and therapeutics experts to focus on projects that can be translated quickly into improved cancer detection and treatment.

SPORE Project 1, co-led by Matthew Powell, MD, an oncologist in the department of obstetrics and gynecology and Pamela Pollock, PhD, from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, focuses on understanding whether treatments that target a specific molecular abnormality in uterine cancers can improve outcomes for women with endometrial cancer. The group’s initial discovery that the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) gene is mutated in 15 percent of endometrial cancers paved the way for a clinical trial using a therapy that reduces the gene’s activity.

Preliminary findings from the first drug trial suggest patients with advanced endometrial cancer may have improved survival. Ongoing laboratory studies have revealed that certain subgroups of patients will respond better to anti-FGFR2 drugs than others. A second clinical trial is currently being developed that matches the genetic makeup of the patient’s endometrial cancer with a novel treatment agent.

Other SPORE projects include:

  • Identifying changes in tumor DNA that can be used to predict which endometrial cancer patients will benefit most from specific therapies
  • Determining the best strategy to identify women who developed their cancers because of an inherited genetic abnormality, which can then translate to earlier detection in relatives
  • Investigating how the cancer cell is “rewired” to grow uncontrolled