“Decisions Are Made By Those Who Show Up”*

Responding to a threat of a funding reduction to the Department of Defense’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program, during the last week of October the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance urged advocates to contact their Members of Congress to appeal to the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to increase funding for the research program. As a result of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance’s advocacy efforts, 14 Senators and 77 Representatives showed their opposition to the funding cut by signing a Dear Colleague letter sent to the Subcommittee Tuesday, November 3, 2009. …

Advocates Work To Prevent Slash In Ovarian Cancer Research Funding

Responding to a threat of a funding reduction to the Department of Defense’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program, during the last week of October the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) urged advocates to contact their Members of Congress to appeal to the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to increase funding for the research program.

OCNAadvocates1

Advocates lobbying on Capitol Hill for increased funds for ovarian cancer research. (Photo: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance)

As a result of OCNA’s advocacy efforts, 14 Senators and 77 Representatives showed their opposition to the funding cut by signing a Dear Colleague letter sent to the Subcommittee Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

The Dear Colleague letter, written by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), requested that the Subcommittee allocate the $25 million set forth in the U.S. House of Representatives‘ version of the Defense bill, and not the $10 million outlined in the U.S. Senate version of the bill. The Senate funding level represented a 50 percent reduction from the $20 million appropriated in fiscal year (FY) 2009.

The date of the conference subcommittee meeting has yet to be announced.

Established in 1997, the Department of Defense’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program has received $10 million in funding annually from FY 1998 until FY 2008. However, for FY 2009, the program’s funding was doubled to $20 million. The Ovarian Cancer Research Program works to eliminate ovarian cancer by conducting innovative, multidisciplinary research on early detection, screening and treatment of ovarian cancer.

To read the full text of the letter and see if your elected officials signed, please click here.

The Ovarian Cancer Action Network periodically sends out action alerts to notify advocates of pressing issues that need constituent support. To sign up, please click here.

About the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

OCNA is the advocacy arm of the ovarian cancer movement. OCNA works with federal policy makers, including the  U.S. President, U.S. Congress, and federal agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). OCNA commits its resources to be a voice for ovarian cancer survivors and significantly reduce the number of deaths from this deadly disease by advocating at the federal level for the following:

• Adequate and sustained funding for ovarian cancer research and awareness programs, and

• Legislation that improves quality of life and access to care for ovarian cancer patients.

Since 1997, when OCNA was founded, death rates from ovarian cancer have not significantly changed. However, OCNA has worked to increase funding for ovarian cancer research, with the goal that this funding will support breakthroughs to help detect ovarian cancer early, treat it more thoroughly, and allow women with ovarian cancer to survive, and thrive.

OCNA has worked to ensure that (i) necessary treatments are covered by Medicare, (ii) drugs and tests on the market are safe and effective, and (iii) federal policy makers are aware of the importance of the ovarian cancer community.

Join OCNA to fight for women with ovarian cancer, and policies that help support them and their families.

Source: Advocates Work To Prevent Slash In Ovarian Cancer Research Funding, News Update, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, November 11, 2009.

*Title Quote:  Fictional U.S. President Josiah Edward Bartlet, What Kind of Day Has It Been Episode, The West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin, originally aired May 17, 2000 [Sorkin attributes his teleplay quote to Woody Allen (“80% of success in life is just showing up”)].

U.S. Ovarian Cancer Research Funding Slashed In Half — Take Action & Call Your U.S. Congressman & Senators Today!

As a result of a recent U.S. Senate mark-up, the funding for the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program (DOD OCRP) has been slashed in half from $20 million to $10 million. Research conducted under the DOD OCRP program is critical because it is solely dedicated to ovarian cancer. … Please help us make sure that the Dear Colleague letter obtains enough signatures to make an impact. If we act in unison, we can speak with one voice to obtain $25 million in appropriations for the DOD OCRP.

Rosie The riveter

Click the picture above & enter your zip code to obtain U.S. Congress calling instructions from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

As a result of a recent U.S. Senate mark-up, the funding for the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program (DOD OCRP) has been slashed in half from $20 million to $10 million. Research conducted under the DOD OCRP program is critical because it is solely dedicated to ovarian cancer.

As the U.S. Congress prepares to go into conference, whereby the U.S. House of Representatives (House) and U.S. Senate (Senate) meet to finalize appropriation levels, a “Dear Colleague” letter is being circulated in both the House and the Senate urging the Congressional leadership to follow the original $25 million funding level that was adopted in the House with respect to the DOD OCRP program.

Please help us make sure that the Dear Colleague letter obtains enough signatures to make an impact. If we act in unison, we can speak with one voice to obtain $25 million in appropriations for ovarian cancer research.

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance provides easy instructions that allow you to request your U.S. Representative and (two) U.S. Senators to sign the Dear Colleague. If you are serious about the fight against ovarian cancer, PLEASE CALL TODAY.

CLICK HERE to be taken to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance website where you can input your zip code to obtain specific U.S. Congress calling instructions. Your efforts will make a difference.

SourceOvarian Cancer Research Funding slashed in half — call your Congressman and Senators today! Action Alert, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

One In Three Billion Found: Single Mutation In FOXL2 Gene May Cause Granulosa Cell Ovarian Cancer

“… Vancouver scientists from the Ovarian Cancer Research (OvCaRe) Program at BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute have discovered that there appears to be a single spelling mistake in the genetic code of granulosa cell tumours, a rare and often untreatable form of ovarian cancer. This means that out of the three billion nucleotide pairs that make up the genetic code of the tumour, one – the same one in every tumour sample – is incorrect. The discovery, published online June 10th in the New England Journal of Medicine, marks the beginning of a new era of cancer genomics, where the complete genetic sequence of cancers can be unravelled and the mutations that cause them exposed. For women with granulosa cell tumours it represents the first specific diagnostic tool and clear path to develop much needed treatments for this cancer. …”

Found: One in Three Billion

The spelling mistake in the genetic code that causes a type of Ovarian Cancer

Eureka! Vancouver scientists from the Ovarian Cancer Research (OvCaRe) Program at BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute have discovered that there appears to be a single spelling mistake in the genetic code of granulosa cell tumours, a rare and often untreatable form of ovarian cancer. This means that out of the three billion nucleotide pairs that make up the genetic code of the tumour, one – the same one in every tumour sample – is incorrect. The discovery, published online June 10th in the New England Journal of Medicine, marks the beginning of a new era of cancer genomics, where the complete genetic sequence of cancers can be unravelled and the mutations that cause them exposed. For women with granulosa cell tumours it represents the first specific diagnostic tool and clear path to develop much needed treatments for this cancer.

Dr. David Huntsman

David Huntsman, M.D. (Nfld.), Associate Professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia; Genetic Pathologist, BC Cancer Agency

“This is really a two-fold discovery,” says Dr. David Huntsman, lead author and genetic pathologist at the BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver General Hospital and associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of British Columbia. “It clearly shows the power of the new generation of DNA sequencing technologies to impact clinical medicine, and for those of us in the area of ovarian cancer research and care, by identifying the singular mutation that causes granulosa cell tumours, we can now more easily identify them and develop news ways to treat them.”

In the past when scientists wanted to look at the sequence of a tumour, it was a laborious process, with each gene individually decoded into thousands of nucleotides and all data accumulated and sorted. Most studies could only look at one or at most a few of the 20,000 genes in the human genome whereas the new sequencing technologies allow scientists to look at everything at once. Through a collaboration between OvCaRe and the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre, the research team used “next generation” sequencing machines that are able to decode billions of nucleotides at rapid speed and new computer techniques to quickly assemble the data. “This task would have been unfathomable in terms of both cost and complexity even two years ago,” says Dr. Marco Marra, Director of the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre.

The OvCaRe team decoded four tumour samples of the relatively rare granulosa cell tumour, which affects five percent of ovarian cancer patients. Using the new sequencing technology and bioinformatics, they discovered a single nucleotide located in the FOXL2 gene was mutated in every sample. The research team further validated their work by examining a large number [95 samples] of additional tumour samples from across Canada and around the world, and are satisfied they have been able to validate that this mutation is present in almost all granulosa cell tumours and not in unrelated cancers. Most types of cancers, including ovarian cancers, have a broad range of genetic abnormalities. This finding shows that granulosa cell tumours have a characteristic single DNA spelling mistake that can serve as an easy to read identity tag for this cancer type.

“Although it has been suggested that hundreds of any cancer type would have to be sequenced at great depth to make clinically useful discoveries,” says Huntsman, “we had hypothesized that knowledge could be gained from much smaller studies if the cancers were carefully selected and represented clinically homogenous diseases. There are many rarer cancer types, like granulosa cell tumours that fit that bill and based upon our success in decoding granulosa cell tumours we are focusing on other rare tumours in what could be described as a guerrilla war on cancer. We hope that these studies will not only help future patients with rare tumours but will also teach us about more common ones as well.”

“This cancer is unique,” says Dr. Dianne Miller, gynecologic oncologist at BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver General Hospital. “For patients with this tumour type, it means they should all have the same response to the same treatment. And now that we have this pathway, we can look for existing cancer drugs that might work on this particular gene mutation to make the cancer disappear.”

The OvCaRe team was able to make this discovery because of the multidisciplinary nature of the group, which crosses two provincial health authorities and is made up of gynaecologists, pathologists, bioinformatics specialists, and oncologists. Further enhancing the team’s success is the centralization of patient treatment and record keeping.

“We are excited by this paper,” says Dr. Michael Birrer, professor, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and director GYN/Medical Oncology, Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. “The ovarian cancer research and care community now has new biologic insights into this poorly understood tumour and a potential therapeutic target. More importantly, this tour de force study reveals the power of genomic approaches to cancer, particularly rare tumours.”

Ovarian cancer affects about one in 70 Canadian women. Approximately 2500 new cases are diagnosed each year and the five-year survival rate is only 30 per cent.

This study was supported by donors to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and the BC Cancer Foundation, and Genome BC for the development of Illumina sequencing at the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre. OvCaRe and the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre are also supported by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OvCaRe) is a multidisciplinary research program involving clinicians and research scientists in gynaecology, pathology, and medical oncology. OvCaRe is a unique collaboration between the BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and the University of British Columbia. Funding is provided through donations to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and the BC Cancer Foundation, who, in a joint partnership created a campaign to raise funds to make OvCaRe possible. The OvCaRe team is considered a leader in ovarian cancer research, breaking new ground in better identifying, understanding, and treating this disease. Earlier this year, the team discovered that ovarian cancer was not just one disease, but rather made up of several distinct subtypes.

Primary Sources:

Related N Engl J Med Editorial:  Shendure J, Stewart, CJ. Cancer Genomes on a Shoestring Budget. N Engl J Med 2009 0: NEJMe0903433 (Full Text).

Additional Reference:  Köbel M, Kalloger SE, Boyd N,et. al. Ovarian carcinoma subtypes are different diseases: implications for biomarker studies. PLoS Med. 2008 Dec 2;5(12):e232. PubMed PMID: 19053170; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2592352.

Additional Resources: