Mayo Clinic Ovarian Cancer SPORE Grant

Awarded: July 2009
Amount: $11.5 million over five years
Principal investigator: Scott H. Kaufmann, M.D., Ph.D.
Co-principal investigator: Lynn C. Hartmann, M.D.

A quilt 'A'cadia' by Eunice Hill, 2008

"A'cadia" - 2008, Eunice Hill
Quilts of the Women's Cancer Program

Although treatment advances during the last 30 years have led to small improvements in the average length of survival after diagnosis with ovarian cancer, the overall cure rate is unchanged. The persistent high mortality rate associated with ovarian cancer derives from several factors, including:

  • Poor understanding of underlying tumor biology
  • Lack of viable targets for screening, imaging and therapeutics
  • No reliable screening strategy because there are few early symptoms
  • Diagnosis that often comes in the advanced stage of disease
  • Development of chemotherapy-resistant disease, despite initial chemo-sensitivity of most ovarian cancers

Drs. Hartmann and Kaufmann at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have established an Ovarian Cancer SPORE program that consists of a strong pool of investigators, partnerships across disciplines, an exceptional biospecimens repository with thorough clinical annotation, access to novel therapeutic approaches and an environment designed to perform innovative clinical trials. The Ovarian Cancer SPORE draws upon unique resources at Mayo Clinic to address several key challenges of this disease. The investigators are examining important questions about the origin and development of ovarian cancer, emphasizing the translational utility of these findings to identify new targets for therapy and imaging. Ovarian Cancer SPORE team members are building on a decade of work to further a promising approach to circumventing platinum resistance — treatment of ovarian cancer that does not respond to platinum-type medicines. Moreover, they are exploring another very novel therapeutic strategy, virotherapy, building on an ongoing clinical trial in ovarian cancer that has shown early evidence that the disease is responding to treatment.

The purpose of the Mayo Clinic Ovarian Cancer SPORE is to stimulate and facilitate rigorous translational research in ovarian cancer — work that will take new basic and population science discoveries and convert them to improved interventions for women with ovarian cancer. In addition, the Ovarian Cancer SPORE program seeks to attract investigators new to this field and offer them the infrastructure, resources and knowledge necessary for successful careers in ovarian cancer research.

Vital to the Ovarian Cancer SPORE is the underlying foundation of the Ovarian Research Group at Mayo Clinic, led by Dr. Hartmann since 1995. This group provides the base for fruitful interactions between basic scientists, population scientists and clinical investigators. Patient advocates also are invaluable members of the Ovarian Cancer SPORE team, bringing unique experiences and perspectives and providing input through the Patient Advocacy Advisory Committee. Another important feature is the network of already existing SPOREs within Mayo Clinic, including the Brain, Breast, Pancreas, Prostate, Lymphoma and Myeloma SPOREs, which contribute expertise, resources and advocacy input from which the Ovarian Cancer SPORE can draw and benefit.

For more information about the Ovarian Cancer SPORE, see: