Fox Chase Cancer Center research reveals how COX-2 causes ovarian cancer

owel cancer.

The important role of inheritance has led many women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer to have their breasts and ovaries removed as a means of preventing the development of cancer. Xu and his colleagues studied the tissues removed during prophylactic oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) for clues about the precancerous changes that go on in the cells.

One of the cell proteins they analyzed was COX-2, a physiologically important enzyme that plays a role in ovulation as well as in antibacterial, immunologic and inflammatory processes. COX-2 has also been shown to stimulate tumor cell division and angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) and to inhibit a type of programmed cell death called apoptosis, which helps control the growth of tumors. Xu's analysis of the ovarian tissue specimens showed that as the level of COX-2 increases, it appears to promote the loss of basement membrane.

Treatment with COX-2 inhibitors may prevent the development of cancer cells. In fact, the National Cancer Institute will launch a human clinical trial of COX-2 inhibitors. Mary B. Daly, M.D., Ph.D., director of Fox Chase's Cancer Control Program, is heading the multi-center trial, which will include Fox Chase as one of its sites. Fox Chase has one of four Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Ovarian Cancer, established by the NCI in 1999.

Understanding what happens in ovarian cells before they become cancerous is important not only because it may lead to preventive therapies but also because it may lead to the identification of markers of the disease that will be useful for diagnosis and for assessing treatment results. One of the reasons for the high death rate among women who develop ovarian cancer is that diagnosis often is delayed until late stages of the disease.

In addition to Xu and Daly, the Fox Chase research team includes Isabelle H. Roland, Wan-Lin Yang, Ph.D., Dong-Hua Yang, M.D., Ph.D., Robert F.

Contact: Karen Carter Mallet
Fox Chase Cancer Center

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