PBS Documentary, “The Whisper: The Silent Crisis of Ovarian Cancer.”

To raise ovarian cancer awareness, Long Island’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate WLIW-Channel 21 will present the exclusive New York metro area premiere of a half-hour television documentary entitled, “The Whisper: the silent crisis of ovarian cancer.” The program will debut at 7 P.M. (EDT) on Friday, September 24 in the New York metro area, and will be rolled out to other PBS affiliates across the country over the next 12 months.

More than 13,000 women this year will be struck down by ovarian cancer, which is the most lethal gynecologic cancer. Ovarian cancer statistics are staggering; nearly three out of every four women with this disease will die because of it. Chances of survival can improve if it is detected early and confined to the ovaries. Unfortunately, only about 25 percent of women are diagnosed with early stage disease because there is no reliable early stage screening test available. Victims of ovarian cancer include President Obama’s mother Ann Soetoro, Coretta Scott King and comedienne Gilda Radner.

To raise awareness of this devastating disease, Long Island’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) affiliate WLIW-Channel 21 will present the exclusive New York metro area premiere of a half-hour television documentary entitled, The Whisper: The Silent Crisis of Ovarian Cancer.  A preview trailer of the documentary is provided below.

The Whisper:  the silent crisis of ovarian cancer — PBS Documentary

The program will debut at 7 P.M. (EDT) on Friday, September 24, with encore presentations scheduled for 10:30 P.M. on Monday, September 27, and 11:30 P.M. on Friday, October 1. The program will be rolled out to other PBS affiliates across the country over the next 12 months.

The documentary was made possible by a generous grant from the Sonia L. Totino Foundation and the Rocco Totino family. Mr. Totino, a New York resident, lost his wife Sonia to ovarian cancer several years ago, and wished to honor her with an initiative that seeks to raise awareness among women of the warning signs of ovarian cancer, and by doing so, reduce the number of women lost to this devastating disease.

Sharon Blynn is the founder of Bald is Beautiful & the host of “The Whisper: the silent crisis of ovarian cancer” (a PBS documentary)

The host featured in the documentary is Sharon Blynn, who is an ovarian cancer survivor and the founder of the Bald Is Beautiful campaign. Through this campaign, Sharon wants to send a message to women that they can “flip the script” on the many traumatic aspects of the cancer experience, and embrace every part of their journey with self-love, empowerment, and a deep knowing that their beauty and femininity radiate from within and are not diminished in any way by the effects of having cancer.  As an “actorvist,” Sharon communicates the Bald Is Beautiful message through acting, writing, modeling and spokesperson appearances, and she continues to do patient outreach through one-on-one correspondence via her website, hospital visitations, being a chemo buddy and other such activities.

Other Bald Is Beautiful highlights include an international print campaign for the Kenneth Cole “We All Walk in Different Shoes” campaign, an international print and TV campaign for Bristol-Myers Squibb, appearances in “Sex and the City” and a principal role in Seal’s music video “Love’s Divine.” She has been featured in magazine and newspaper articles in Glamour, Vogue, Marie Claire (US & Italia), Organic Style, BUST, the Miami Herald and other publications. Sharon has also performed onstage as part of the “Off the Muff” collective, and she was commissioned to write and perform her one-woman theatrical piece “How Are We Feeling Today?” which saw its world premiere in Los Angeles and was presented in New York City. A QuickTime video compilation of Sharon’s past projects can be viewed here.

Blynn was awarded the prestigious 2010 Lilly Tartikoff/Entertainment Industry Foundation Hope Award at the 2010 National Coalition for Cancer SurvivorshipRays of Hope Gala” held in Washington, D.C. Sharon has also been selected to be part of Lifetime Television Network’s Every Woman Counts “Remarkable Women” campaign, and will appear in a 30-second spot that will run the week of Sept 17–23, 2010.

The nationally-renowned ovarian cancer experts featured in the documentary include:

Barbara A. Goff, M.D., Professor, Gynecologic Oncology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Goff is the principal investigator responsible for critical ovarian cancer research which revealed that ovarian cancer is generally accompanied by four primary warning signs or symptoms — bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).  Goff’s research became the foundation for the Ovarian Cancer Symptoms Consensus Statement, which was sponsored and co-authored by the American Cancer Society, Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, and Society of Gynecologic Oncologists in July 2007.

Beth Y. Karlan, M.D., Board of Governors Endowed Chair, Director, Women’s Cancer Research Institute and Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, David Geffen School of Medicine ,University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Karlan is a world-renowned expert in the field of gynecologic oncology, specifically ovarian cancer surgery, early detection, targeted therapies and inherited cancer susceptibility. She is a past-president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, the Editor-in-Chief of Gynecologic Oncology, and has held many international leadership positions.  She is committed to both scientific advancement and enhancing public awareness about gynecologic cancers.

John Lovecchio, M.D., Chief of Gynecologic Oncology, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System; Leader of the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute; Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the New York University School of Medicine.  Dr. Lovecchio’s major areas of research are in uterine and ovarian cancers, and he holds administrative and leadership positions in regional and national professional organizations and has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals. Lovecchio is widely regarded as a leading physician-surgeon and has received numerous awards in recognition of his academic and professional achievements.  In the documentary, Dr. Lovecchio offers his insight on ways to combat this deadly form of cancer. He is also credited as the technical advisor for the documentary.

Maurie Markman, M.D., Vice President of Patient Oncology Services & National Director of Medical Oncology, Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  For more than 20 years, Dr. Markman has been engaged in clinical research in the area of gynecologic malignancies, with a particular focus on new drug development and exploring novel management strategies in female pelvic cancers.  Dr. Markman’s many accomplishments include serving as Editor-In-Chief for the Current Oncology Reports journal and Oncology (Karger Publishers) journal, and serves as Chairman of the Medical Oncology Committee of the national Gynecologic Oncology Group.  In addition, Dr. Markman has served on numerous editorial boards, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Gynecologic Oncology.  Dr. Markman has been the primary author, or co-author, on more than 1,000 published peer-reviewed manuscripts, reviews, book chapters, editorials or abstracts, and he has edited or co-edited 14 books on various topics in the management of malignant disease, including Atlas of Oncology and the most recent edition of Principles and Practice of Gynecologic Oncology.

“Taking part in this program was a labor of love and concern for my patients,” said Dr. Lovecchio, who is based at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. “I wanted to make sure that women are getting the right information, and are aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. They must be alert to their own bodies and recognize that abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, urinary symptoms, difficulty in eating, and feeling full quickly may not be the norm.”

“I wanted to make sure that women are getting the right information, and are aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. They must be alert to their own bodies and recognize that abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, urinary symptoms, difficulty in eating, and feeling full quickly may not be the norm.”

— John Lovecchio, M.D., Chief of Gynecologic Oncology, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System

“Women should seek the advice of experts trained in this field and not think that they are being alarmists. Other medical experts and patients interviewed in this documentary are all seeking the same outcome — to make every woman aware of her own body and to encourage every woman to seek help if she feels that something is not quite right,” said Dr. Lovecchio, who was interviewed for the documentary along with Drs. Goff, Karlan, and Markman.

Source:  PBS Documentary on Ovarian Cancer, News Release, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, September 9, 2010.

M.D. Anderson’s EphA2-Targeted Therapy Delivers Chemo Directly to Ovarian Cancer Cells

With a novel therapeutic delivery system, a research team led by scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has successfully targeted a protein that is over-expressed in ovarian cancer cells. Using the EphA2 protein as a molecular homing mechanism, chemotherapy was delivered in a highly selective manner in preclinical models of ovarian cancer, the researchers report in the July 29 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. … In the models, the therapy inhibited tumor growth in treated mice by 85 percent – 98 percent compared to control mice. … [Anil] Sood said, “We are gearing up to bring it to phase I clinical trials. A lot of the safety studies are well under way or nearing completion and we anticipate that this drug will enter clinical trials within the next few months.”

M. D. Anderson-led team finds potent antitumor activity with a monoclonal antibody-chemotherapy combination

With a novel therapeutic delivery system, a research team led by scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has successfully targeted a protein that is over-expressed in ovarian cancer cells. Using the EphA2 protein as a molecular homing mechanism, chemotherapy was delivered in a highly selective manner in preclinical models of ovarian cancer, the researchers report in the July 29 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

EphA2 is attractive for such molecularly targeted therapy because it has increased expression in ovarian and other cancers, including breast, colon, prostate and non-small cell lung cancers and in aggressive melanomas, and its expression has been associated with a poor prognosis.

Anil K. Sood, M.D., professor and in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology at the Univ. of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Anil K. Sood, M.D., professor in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology at the Univ. of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

“One of our goals has been to develop more specific ways to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs,” said senior author Anil K. Sood, M.D., professor and in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology at M. D. Anderson. “Over the last several years we have shown that EphA2 is a target that is present quite frequently in ovarian and other cancers, but is either present in low levels or is virtually absent from most normal adult tissues. EphA2’s preferential presence on tumor cells makes it an attractive therapeutic target.”

The researchers used a carrier system to deliver chemotherapy directly to ovarian cancer cells. The immunoconjugate contains an anti-EphA2 monoclonal antibody linked to the chemotherapy drug monomethyl auristatin phenylalanine (MMAF) through the non-cleavable linker maleimidocaproyl. Research has shown that auristatins induce cell cycle arrest at the G – M border, disrupt microtubules and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells.

The investigators evaluated the delivery system’s specificity in EphA2-positive HeyA8 and EphA2-negative SKMel28 ovarian cancer cells through antibody-binding and internalization assays. They also assessed viability and apoptosis in ovarian cancer cell lines and tumor models and examined anti-tumor activity in orthotopic mouse models with mice bearing HeyA8-luc and SKOV3ip1 ovarian tumors.

According to Sood, who is also co-director of both the Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNA and the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program at M. D. Anderson, the immunoconjugate was highly specific in delivering MMAF to the tumor cells that expressed EphA2 while showing minimal uptake in cells that did not express the protein. In the models, the therapy inhibited tumor growth in treated mice by 85 percent – 98 percent compared to control mice.

“Once we optimized the dosing regimen, the drug was highly effective in reducing tumor growth and in prolonging survival in preclinical animal models,” Sood said. “We actually studied bulkier masses because that is what one would see in a clinical setting where there are pre-existent tumors, and even in this setting the drug was able to reduce or shrink the tumors.”

As for future research with the EphA2-silencing therapy, Sood said, “We are gearing up to bring it to phase I clinical trials. A lot of the safety studies are well under way or nearing completion and we anticipate that this drug will enter clinical trials within the next few months.”

He added that his group is simultaneously conducting preclinical testing on other chemotherapy drugs to determine which agents might combine well with the immunoconjugate used in the current study.

“There is growing interest in molecularly targeted therapy so that we are not indiscriminately killing normal cells,” Sood noted. “The goal is to make the delivery of chemotherapy more specific. The immunoconjugate we used is in a class of drugs that is certainly quite attractive from that perspective.”

Research was funded by NCI-DHHS-NIH T32 Training Grant (T32 CA101642 to A.M.N.). This research was funded in part by support from M. D. Anderson’s ovarian cancer SPORE grant (P50 CA083639), the Marcus Foundation, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program, and Sood’s Betty Ann Asche Murray Distinguished Professorship.

Co-authors with Sood are Jeong-Won Lee, Hee Dong Han, Mian M. K. Shahzad, Seung Wook Kim, Lingegowda S. Mangala, Alpa M. Nick, Chunhua Lu, Rosemarie Schmandt, Hye-Sun Kim, Charles N. Landen, Robert L. Coleman, all of M. D. Anderson’s Department of Gynecologic Oncology; Robert R. Langley, of M. D. Anderson’s Department of Cancer Biology; Jeong-Won Lee, also of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea; Mian M. K. Shahzad, also of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; Hye-Sun Kim, also of the Department of Pathology, Cheil General Hospital and Women’s Healthcare Center, Kwandong University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea; and Shenlan Mao, John Gooya, Christine Fazenbaker, Dowdy Jackson, and David Tice , all of MedImmune, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Source: EphA2-Targeted Therapy Delivers Chemo Directly to Ovarian Cancer Cells – M. D. Anderson-led team finds potent antitumor activity with a monoclonal antibody-chemotherapy combination, M.D. Anderson News Release, 29 Jul. 09 [summarizing the findings of Lee JW, Han HD, Shahzad MM et. al. EphA2 Immunoconjugate as Molecularly Targeted Chemotherapy for Ovarian Carcinoma. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Jul 29. [Epub ahead of print]].

Stand Up To Cancer Funded Research Dream Team Takes Aim At Women’s Cancers

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s charitable initiative supporting groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated timeframe, has reached a significant milestone, awarding the first round of three-year grants — that total $73.6 million — to five multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research Dream Teams. … Each Dream Team’s project, funded for three years pending satisfactory achievement of stated milestones, is “translational” in nature, geared toward moving science from “bench to bedside” where it can benefit patients as quickly as possible. …

A Dream Team of leading cancer researchers will accelerate development of drugs to attack a mutated [PI3K] molecular pathway that fuels endometrial, breast and ovarian cancers, funded by a three-year $15 million grant awarded today by [SU2C] … Genetic aberrations in the network, known as the PI3K pathway, are found in half of all breast cancer patients, 60 percent of all cases of endometrial cancer and 20 percent of ovarian cancer patients. Other cancers that include a mutationally activated PI3K pathway include melanoma, colon and prostate cancers, brain tumors, and leukemia.

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