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USF’s novel ovarian cancer detection research featured on federal website

Department of Defense-funded research by USF Health Morsani College of Medicine researchers Patricia Kruk, PhD, and Santo Nicosia, MD, is featured on a video posted to the front page of the Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Programs website.  

Their promising research is working to develop urine markers that could be used as part of a panel of markers to accurately detect this deadly gynecological cancer earlier — when treatment is much more likely to work.

Currently no reliable method exists to detect ovarian cancer.  Drs. Kruk, Nicosia and colleagues hope to change that.

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Patricia Kruk, PhD

“If this cancer is discovered in the early state… survival is excellent, probably 85 to 90 percent or better. But if, as usual, it is discovered in the late stages, survival is less than 30 percent,”  Dr. Nicosia, professor of pathology and cell biology, says in the video.  “One of the reasons for such a dismal fact is that we do not have a good screening diagnostic marker for ovarian cancer.”

While studying molecular changes responsible for the early stages of ovarian cancer, Dr. Kruk and Dr. Nicosia discovered that the level of a protein in the urine called Bcl-2 is 10 times higher in women with ovarian cancer than it is in healthy women.  They are working with colleagues at several institutions, including MD Anderson Cancer Center, to validate how well Bcl-2 stands up as a a urinary biomarker to detect the disease.

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Santo Nicosia, MD

The research prompted Dr. Kruk to develop a simple, more sensitive dipstick screening test for ovarian cancer measuring the urinary levels of Bcl-2.  Her urine assay, the only non-invasive ovarian cancer diagnostic in development right now, has been patented in the United States and Europe with additional patents pending internationally. 

“Up until our studies, there was no idication that there may be urinary proteins that could be used to detect ovarian cancer,” says Dr. Kruk, professor of pathology and cell biology, obstetrics and gynecology, and oncologic sciences.  “By exploiting elevated urinary Bcl-2 levels among patients with ovarian cancer, we can significantly impact a horrific disease that kills thousands of women annually.”

Dr. Kruk’s breakthrough technology was one of 30 selected for presentation April 3 at the invitation-only University Research and Entrepreneurship Symposium in Cambridge, MA.

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The production team for the U.S. Department of Defense Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Programs Office prepares for the video shoot in Dr. Kruk’s laboratory.

Lauren Golin, USF Technology Transfer Office, contributed to this blog post.