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Defining Ovarian Cancer Subtypes for Better Treatment

Treating all cancers from one part of the body as if they are the same disease “can confuse everything, from trying to understand the causes to trying to develop more effective treatments,” says Professor Levi Waldron (Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy).

Waldron and colleagues are working to define subtypes of an ovarian cancer called high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC). Clarifying the distinctions between molecular subtypes could pave the way for more accurate prognoses as well as therapies tailored to each subtype.

In a recent study, the investigators analyzed three methods that other scientists have come up with to classify HGSOC tumors. While all three methods categorize tumors by looking at their genetic information, they use different definitions for each subtype and sometimes report different answers.

To rectify this, the CUNY researchers created a new algorithm to classify tumors. The team fed the algorithm examples of tumors that all three methods agreed upon. That way, the algorithm “learned” which tumors it could classify with certainty, and which to leave uncategorized.

This research opens the door for doctors and scientists to confirm whether these subtypes are clinically useful. “The thinking is that these subtypes are more biologically similar, so they may also have similar origins and responses to treatment,” Waldron said.

Waldron’s team is now studying the unclassified tumors. One idea is that these tumors belong to a subtype that has not yet been defined. It is also possible that they are made from a mixture of cells from different subtypes. The answer could affect future subtype-specific treatments, Waldron says.

Co-authors include Ludwig Geistlinger, postdoctoral fellow at CUNY’s Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health, and Waldron Lab alumna Lavanya Kannan, now of New York University. Colleagues from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, England’s Nottingham Trent University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham also contributed to the study.

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work
“Consensus on Molecular Subtypes of High-grade Serous Ovarian Carcinoma”

Work By
Levi Waldron (Assistant Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools
Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy

Bonus Content
“CUNY researcher helps define subtypes of ovarian cancer” (CUNY SPH News)

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