Monthly Archives: October 2015

Identifying New Combinations of Therapy to Combat Ovarian Cancer Drug Resistance

stock-illustration-68071009-teal-ribbon-symbol-of-scleroderma-ovarian-cancer-food-allergy-tsunamiOvarian cancer is usually diagnosed at a late stage, after cancer cells have already spread to other organs. Ovarian cancer is hard to diagnose due to vague initial symptoms such as abdominal pain, changes in digestion and fatigue. It is the fifth most common cancer in Canadian women1. New research can provide improvements in treatment of ovarian cancer. A recent study on a new drug called Fostamatinib has shown it could help combat hard to treat drug, drug resistant ovarian cancer.

One of the major challenges facing both cancer researchers and doctors is when cancer cells become resistant to therapy2. For woman with advanced ovarian cancer, a drug called Paclitaxel is often the treatment of choice. Although most patients will initially respond, the majority of women will develop treatment-resistant tumours and only 10-15% will survive in the long-term3. Recently, researchers from John Hopkins University discovered a new treatment combination that may address this problem. They found that combining a new, experimental drug called Fostamatinib with existing drug Paclitaxel, could help to overcome treatment resistance . The research was carried out using ovarian cancer cells grown in the lab, as well as in mice. One really interesting finding is that when these drugs were given in combination, they were able to shrink the size of ovarian cancer tumours in mice by more than 60% versus mice which did not receive treatment.

The researchers believe that Fostamatinib works to overcome resistance to Paclitaxel by targeting a specific enzyme, called STK (or spleen tyrosine kinase). This particular enzyme is found at high levels in recurrent ovarian cancer tumours (i.e. tumours that returned after initial treatment) and in ovarian cancer tumours that are already resistant to Paclitaxel.

Although a promising study, these results are still in their early infancy and more work needs to be completed before we can see this treatment combination being used to cure ovarian cancer. Specifically, Fostamatinib, has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States nor by Health Canada. The researchers at John Hopkins are hoping to move their findings to the clinic by planning a Phase 1 clinical trial4. This clinical trial will test the dosage and safety of Fostamatinib in a small number of women with advanced ovarian cancer. It may take several years before we will learn whether this new drug combination can offer hope to ovarian cancer patients. In the meantime, it is comforting to know that researchers are working hard to address the significant challenge related to drug resistant tuomours, in hopes of helping patients with advanced forms of the disease.

This blog is written by Katayoun Seif Farahi. Katayoun wants to thank Stefanie Freel, Kelly Fathers, and Katie Wright for their invaluable inputs. Katayoun is an International Medical Graduate. She is a volunteer at the Canadian Cancer Society and the Research Outreach Information Team in Toronto. She is interested in health and research. She is seeking new opportunities in field of research and health.


  1. Retrieved Sept 28,
  2.   answers.pdf
  3. John Hopkins Medicine. (2015, July 1). Experimental drug combined with standard chemo may shrink treatment-resistant ovarian cancer, animal study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 10, 2015 from

Power in Pink: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This article is the first part of a series on breast cancer research efforts that will continue throughout October.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month PictureOctober is here. The sun is setting earlier and that warm evening breeze is slowly getting chillier, reminding us that it is officially fall. What does that mean? Pumpkin spice lattes, thanksgiving (and leftover turkey sandwiches), Halloween, and the Pink Ribbon. That’s right – It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). You may be wondering why a whole month is dedicated to Breast Cancer awareness when, as a community, we are well aware of the disease. BCAM is more than just telling the community about Breast Cancer.

Since its inception in 1986, BCAM represents an opportunity for communities to come together, not only to harmonize fundraising efforts but to celebrate our progress in overcoming breast cancer. Indeed, fundraising has enabled critical improvements in treatment, prevention, diagnostic tools, and care. It is one of the many steps we can take to encourage more people to take action to stop this disease in its tracks. This can manifest in many forms such as support, fundraising, spreading the word, and encouraging women to be proactive about their health.

Over the past 75 years, advocacy groups such as The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) have played integral roles in promoting awareness and prevention of Breast Cancer across the country. It has enabled some amazing results. Breast cancer death rates have dropped by 40% since 1986. In women highly susceptible to developing Breast Cancer, CCS-funded drug development has resulted in a 65% reduction in incidences. And our list of successes is growing.

As researchers, watching our community come together and support organizations like CCS motivates us to work harder toward fighting breast cancer. You, as survivors, supporters, and activists, raise awareness and funds for us to keep going. This month the Toronto Research Information Outreach Team (R.I.O.T.) wants you to meet a few people whose work you influence. We will be featuring three specialists in the field of breast cancer who will give us three different perspectives on this topic. For each week in October, our guests will tell us about ways in which research has impacted their work. Make sure to check back this Friday October 16th for part two of our breast cancer series where we will interview surgical oncologist Dr. Alexandra Easson and share her perspective on the progress and promise of breast cancer research.

This series is being written by Nandini Raghuram and Nathan Schachter, PhD students working at the Hospital for Sick Children studying the molecular mechanisms of how breast cancer develops and spreads. To learn more about Nandini and Nathan check out their bios on our members page.