The National Cancer Institute estimated 21,980 women in the United States would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014 (approximately 12.3 per 100,000 women). The institute estimated 14,270 deaths that year would be caused by this form of cancer. In the US, ovarian cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 44.6% but a promising new development could improve the survival rate significantly.

The breakthrough discovery comes from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where lead researcher Madhuri Koti discovered biomarkers that are expected to help oncologists devise individualized targeted treatment regimens. Biomarkers indicate a specific biological state or condition. It is expected that oncologists will someday be able to evaluate a patient’s biomarkers before initiating chemotherapy to determine which forms of treatment are most likely to succeed or fail the individual patient.

Koti, a cancer researcher at the University’s Biomedical and Molecular Sciences division, and her team of researchers examined more than 200 frozen tissue samples taken from ovarian tumors stored at the Ontario Tumor Bank, the Ottawa Health Research Institute, and from the CHUMHospital Notre-Dame’s Gynecology-Oncology and Pathology services in Montreal. Some of the samples came from ovarian tumors that proved resistant to chemotherapy while others came from tumors that were successfully destroyed by chemotherapy.

The Koti research team used both conventional and innovative technologies to detect the biomarkers in each of the tissue samples. The biomarkers were found in 184 genes that regulate inflammation. Inflammation is an immune system response to illness or injury.

According to Koti, recent efforts to harness the immune system when fighting cancer identifies “the significant roles of a cancer patient’s immune responses in fighting cancer.” She attributes many successes as the result of using different therapies to boost a patient’s anti-cancer immunity. “Such therapies would prove to be most effective when coupled with markers predicting a patient’s eventual response to a specific therapy,” she said.

Koti is already working on a second, larger phase of the study that is expected to confirm the findings of the initial biomarker study. She and her research team will be analyzing frozen tissue samples from more than 500 ovarian cancer tumors both resistant and nonresistant to chemotherapy. The phase II validation study involves Koti’s university research team, the Terry Fox Research Institute-Ovarian Cancer Canada, and the Canadian Ovarian Experimental Unified Resource.

Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of gynecology-related cancer deaths in women around the world. On a global scale, approximately 152,000 women die each year from ovarian cancer.


  1. Koti, M, et al. "A distinct pre-existing inflammatory tumor microenvironment is associated with chemotherapy resistance in high-grade serous epithelial ovarian cancer." BJC / British Journal of Cancer 112 (2015): 1215-22. / Nature Publishing Group. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.
  2. "SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Ovary Cancer." SEER / Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. National Cancer Institute, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.