Ovarian cancer nonprofit Colleen’s Dream Foundation awarded $15,000 to Dr. Kristin Anderson, a postdoctoral research fellow at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, to explore whether cancer immunotherapy — harnessing the power of the immune system to fight cancer — can prevent the initial development of ovarian cancer as well as recurrence of the disease.
Ovarian cancer, the deadliest gynecologic malignancy, affects one in 75 U.S. women, and the mortality rate has changed little in the past 20 years. Fewer than half of ovarian cancer patients will live five years after diagnosis. While the standard of care involves surgery and chemotherapy, tumors grow back in more than half of patients. Thus, there’s a great need for treatment options that prevent the disease in women at high risk and prevent disease recurrence in those treated, Anderson said.
“As a young biologist, I am dedicated to developing new treatment strategies that can help physicians improve outcomes for ovarian cancer patients,” said Anderson, a biologist who works in the laboratory of Dr. Philip Greenberg, head of Immunology at Fred Hutch. “My goal, with the support of Colleen’s Dream Foundation, is to accelerate the translation of genetically engineered immune T-cell therapy for ovarian cancer patients to prevent disease recurrence, which is so common today, and, eventually, to prevent disease in high-risk patients.”
To this end, Anderson plans to use a mouse model of ovarian cancer she developed to evaluate ways in which immune T cells can be engineered to effectively target ovarian cancers. So-called “adoptive T-cell therapy” can be used to boost a patient’s immune system so that it is better able to eliminate ovarian cancer cells.
“I am convinced that upon the completion of the proposed work, I will have the preclinical data required to initiate a clinical trial, which may eventually provide oncologists with a much-needed treatment option for patients at high risk for ovarian cancer recurrence or primary development,” she said.
Risk factors for ovarian cancer include having a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer, as well as age; most women who develop the disease are diagnosed after menopause.
Colleen’s Dream Foundation, founded in 2012 by Nicole Cundiff and her husband, Billy Cundiff, a 12-year veteran kicker in the NFL, is a Scottsdale, Arizona-based nonprofit that supports research for early detection of and improved treatment for ovarian cancer. The Cundiffs started the philanthropy after Nicole's mother, Colleen Drury, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer.
“Colleen’s Dream Foundation believes it is important to raise money for research that will lead to reliable early detection testing and improved treatment for ovarian cancer,” according to a Colleen’s Dream Foundation statement. “Because so little is known about ovarian cancer in proportion to other women’s health issues, there is an incredible opportunity for research and education.”
“We are thrilled to support the promising work of Dr. Anderson and her dedication to advancing new discoveries that will impact the lives of many ovarian-cancer patients,” Billy Cundiff said.
Kristen Woodward, a former associate editor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, had been in communications at Fred Hutch for more than 20 years. Before that, she was a managing editor at the University of Michigan Health System and a reporter/editor at The Holland Sentinel, a daily in western Michigan. She has received many national awards for health and science writing. She received her B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University.