Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 06, 2006

U of G Prof Makes Advances in Ovarian Cancer Research

University of Guelph researchers have perfected a technique for injecting cancer cells directly into mouse ovaries, a breakthrough that could ultimately improve diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer. Biomedical sciences professor Jim Petrik will discuss this work and other research at Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life June 9 at 9:45 p.m. in the Fergus Community Centre, 550 Bellsyde Ave. E.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth-highest cause of cancer deaths among Canadian women. “We’re hoping to lead the way to new drugs to effectively choke tumour growth,” said Petrik. “It’s a treatable disease if we can get to it early enough.”

Over the past 18 months, Petrik, Prof. Roger Moorehead and PhD student Jim Greenaway have developed a mouse model for in vivo testing of the disease. Petrik is already working with a pharmaceutical company making anti-angiogenic drugs, compounds that curtail blood vessel growth and effectively cut off a tumour’s supply of oxygen and nutrients.

Clinicians and other researchers are offering positive reviews of the new mouse model for ovarian cancer. Clinical oncologists who see the disease every day in their clinics are particularly interested in this work, said Petrik.
About 1,500 Canadian women die of ovarian cancer each year, and about 2,500 new cases occur annually, according to statistics from the National Ovarian Cancer Association. The disease is usually diagnosed only in later stages, earning it the nickname of the “silent disease.” Its vague symptoms include abdominal pain or swelling, nausea and bloating, all of which may be ascribed to other problems.

Until now, researchers have relied on artificially cultured clumps of cells and immuno-compromised mice that poorly mimic disease progression in normal animals.

In the U of G mouse model, ovarian cancer spontaneously occurs in about two months, allowing the researchers to follow tumour progression, including characteristic development of secondary lesions and fluid buildup. Petrik hopes to hunt down particular genes and proteins involved in that progression as candidate targets for early diagnosis and treatment.

Conceding that the disease and particular genes may not work exactly the same in mice and humans, he said researchers know enough about cancer genetics to suspect that certain biochemical pathways and early “biomarkers” may be common.

Petrik received a $500,000 grant from the Ontario Cancer Research Network to support this work. He and his U of G colleagues have been working with researchers at the University of Western Ontario and Harvard University and are discussing collaborations with an ovarian cancer research group at the University of Toronto.
Outside his Ontario Veterinary College lab, he has spoken about his work to cancer survivor groups and supporters.

“Women are so concerned about other women having to go through this,” he said. “I really try to stay grounded with my research, and I appreciate the opportunity to interact with people who make what I’m doing relevant.”
Along with Moorehead, Petrik is taking part in Friday’s Relay for Life fundraiser. The Relay for Life events and entertainment, beginning at 6:45 p.m. June 9, are open to the media and members of the public.

Jim Petrik
Department of Biomedical Sciences
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 54921 /

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

Email this entry to:

Message (optional):

Powered by FeedBlitz