World Cancer Day at Magee-Womens Research Institute: A Glance at Progress

When Jan Stojanovic’s doctor diagnosed her with Stage 3c ovarian cancer, she knew how serious the situation was. “I sat in the parking lot for half an hour just trying to take it all in.” To be sure, there was a lot to take in. Because ovarian cancer usually isn’t caught until the late stages, it’s often deadly.

But while Jan was steeling herself in the parking lot, more than a dozen researchers at Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) were hyper-focused on furthering our understanding of female cancers—including ovarian cancer. When Jan entered Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, she encountered staff and treatment methods guided by those same researchers working so hard at MWRI.

Four years later, Jan is cancer-free and enjoying life, especially when she’s spending it with her grandson. It’s because of the research-led treatment she received at Magee that she and so many women like her are living healthy lives today.

Cancer Prevention Initiatives

Though World Cancer Day was February 4, Magee works year-round to discover new ways to prevent cancer in women. To that end, MWRI hosts numerous clinical trials for cancer throughout the year, especially when it comes to breast and gynecologic cancers.

For both types of cancer, Magee’s primary investigators focus on the immune system’s role in tumor formation and the development of anti-cancer vaccines. A perfect example: Magee was one of 62 sites to participate in the worldwide HPV vaccine clinical trials.

Detecting Cancer

Magee’s primary investigators are currently trailblazing a number of unique strategies to detect and monitor female cancers. These techniques include DNA sequencing and liquid biopsies, both of which allow doctors to detect cancer without invasive surgery. The information from these techniques also delivers details about the cancer, empowering doctors to make informed treatment decisions for each patient.

Cancer Research at Magee

Though Magee’s cancer research is focused on the breast and reproductive organs, their efforts within these niches are widespread.

A few glimpses into what Magee’s primary investigators are focusing on:

  • Dr. Steffi Oesterreich studies endocrine resistance—blocking estrogen receptors—in order to stop tumors from spreading. It’s a promising project while she investigates invasive lobular cancer, a little-understood cancer that accounts for 10% of all new cases of breast cancer.
  • Dr. Adrian Lee and his team are working on methods to block IDF-1 receptors in a bid to prevent cancers from spreading.
  • As a member of the Pittsburgh Genome Research Repository, Magee investigators have access to 2 million gigabytes of data on cancer patients. By compiling the data from thousands of patients, doctors are better able to recommend treatment methods and spot trends.
  • Magee is always looking to expand its research, whether through internal growth or partnering with outside talent. Bringing in Dr. Ron Buckanovich, an expert in gynecologic cancers, will help MWRI drive its efforts in battling female cancers.
  • Magee also takes the lead in many different clinical trials to ensure only the best treatment strategies and products reach the public.

Sparking Better Treatment Methods

Magee researchers work hard to develop treatment options for patients. Dr. Anda Vlad, for example, has worked to develop an effective mix of traditional chemotherapy drugs and immune boosters. She also develops animal models that mimic how the human body responds to ovarian cancer. These efforts offer clues to how tumors spread and why some cancers resist chemotherapy.

Support for The Future

Much of the groundbreaking research conducted at Magee-Womens Research Institute is funded in part by donors. Observe cancer awareness by donating to one of the country’s premier research institutes. Donate to Magee today to ensure the cancer treatments of tomorrow improve lives all over the world.