New test enables patient-specific monitoring for ovarian cancer


Around 870 cases of ovarian cancer are reported in Belgium each year. Most of these patients are treated with surgery and / or chemotherapy. Specific molecular therapy or immunotherapy are some of the latest approaches that have been studied recently for the treatment of ovarian cancer, but without any major advances in overcoming this difficult disease. From now on, a new test developed by the team of Professor Abhishek D. Garg, in collaboration with the group of Professor An Coosemans, could change this scenario. The so-called “sFIS” test examines specific immune biomarkers that indicate the chances of survival of patients and the effectiveness of treatments against ovarian cancer. In this way, a patient can be monitored in a targeted manner and receive an appropriate specific (immuno) therapy.

Immunotherapy is a collective term for cancer treatments that stimulate the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells and it has recently emerged as a revolutionary treatment option to prolong patient survival for various types of cancer. However, a range of immunotherapies have been studied for the treatment of ovarian cancer without the same degree of success as that obtained for other cancers such as melanoma or lung cancer. This is due to the highly immune-immune nature of ovarian cancer cells as well as the great diversity among patients, which means that not all treatments work for everyone. Here, the use of qualitative biomarkers – which categorize patients into different categories so that they can receive appropriate care and treatment – may be the key to success.

Qualitative versus quantitative

Most biomarkers are chosen for the management or decision making of cancer patients because they are present in large quantities, either in the tumor itself or in the blood. “However, this does not necessarily mean that a large amount of a given biomarker indicates the same amount of the associated function or immunological activity,” explains Professor Garg. “Our team wanted to capture the actual rhythms or fluctuations in treatment or pathways relevant to survival, so we went in search of personalized and dynamic biomarkers that determine patients’ chances of survival. The sFIS assay strategy was first applied with ovarian cancer, but will also be tested in other types of cancer.

The answer is in your own blood

“Based on the results of the test, we can help doctors establish a monitoring and treatment plan, specific to particular groups of patients,” explains Jenny Sprooten, doctoral student. The assay uses serum, the liquid part of your blood that can no longer clot. This is added to the cells in the lab for each patient. “Because each tumor leaves its own ‘fingerprint’ in the serum, cells will respond differently.” Professor Coosemans adds: “On this basis, we can estimate the prognosis and advise on the most appropriate treatment for that specific patient. “

Clinical studies

After the two clinical studies in patients with ovarian cancer already completed in current research, the first studies for other cancers are already planned at UZ Leuven. The studies will soon be extended for further valuation and validation of the test. If all goes well, it will be possible to use the dosage in 3 to 5 years.

Reference: Srooten J, Vankerckhoven A, Vanmeerbeek I, et al. Peripherally-driven NFkB and IFN / ISG myeloid responses predict malignancy risk, survival, and immunotherapy regimen in ovarian cancer. J Immunother Cancer. 2021; 9 (11): e003609. doi: 10.1136 / jitc-2021-003609

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