To identify the best treatment for recurrent ovarian cancer, researchers at Yale School of Medicine are studying a technology called the Yale apoptosis assay in combination with another technology called the ChemoFX assay, which could double the response rate to existing drugs.
In patients with recurrent ovarian cancer, it is often difficult to select an effective treatment because the tumor develops resistance to many drugs. Currently, physicians select a drug and must wait about six months to see whether it is effective on a particular patient.
"These two new assays will take the guesswork out of cancer treatment," said lead investigator, Gil Mor, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. "In patients with very limited time left to live, six months can feel like an eternity when they may have to start a whole new course of treatment if it proves ineffective."
Mor's lab developed the Yale apoptosis assay based on a biological principle that when a drug is effective, it will induce apoptosis (cell death) in the cancer cell. If the cancer cell is resistant to a drug, apoptosis does not occur.
Mor said, "The Yale apoptosis assay will determine whether a drug kills the tumor. The ChemoFX assay will determine whether a drug stops tumor growth. Used together, both assays will distinguish drugs that can stop the growth of the tumor and/or kill the tumor. This was not possible before."
"This test will help physicians predict whether a patient will respond to a specific drug, much like they test bacteria for sensitivity to antibiotics," Mor added.
The technology will be studied with various cancers, beginning with ovarian cancer. The clinical trial is a multi-center study for validation of the assays. Each assay will be evaluated independently and then in combination. The Yale research team partnered with Precision Therapeutics, Inc., (PTI) developers of the ChemoFX assay and is seeking patients from Yale and surrounding communities and from 10 other sites around the country. PTI exclusively licensed the Yale apoptosis assay from Yale. Recruitment for the study will be complete in June 2005, with results available about one year later. The Yale clinical trial is led by Thomas Rutherford, M.D., associate professor of gynecology at Yale School of Medicine