Moffitt researchers receive $7.3 million NCI grant to study ovarian cancer genes

April 02, 2007

Tampa, FL  – Researchers from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute have received a $7.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. The goal of the five year grant is to examine DNA and risk factor data and identify which women are at risk for ovarian cancer based on the makeup of their genes. The result may reveal novel targets for prevention and treatment.

“In our previous work we have had to rely upon incomplete knowledge of the biology of ovarian cancer to identify ‘candidate genes’ as potential risk factors,” said Thomas Sellers, Ph.D. principal investigator on the grant and director of the Moffitt Research Institute as well as executive vice president and associate center director for Cancer, Prevention & Control. “This novel approach overcomes the limitation of previous strategies, and will hopefully reveal targets we could have never imagined to be important.”

Researchers at the University of Toronto, Yale University, Duke University and the Mayo Clinic have recruited more than 4,000 patients with ovarian cancer and 4,000 matched controls. In the first stage, researchers will use gene chip technology to characterize a subset of roughly 3,500 women, some with ovarian cancer and some without. Using a combination of methods, researchers will see which genetic markers differ in frequency between the cases and the controls. Based on those results, they will then conduct a second phase in which all cases and controls will be analyzed for a smaller number of genetic markers.

Ovarian cancer will kill an estimated 15,280 North American women in 2007, making it the fifth leading cause of cancer death and the highest mortality of any cancer specific to women. The origin of the disease is poorly understood, but there is compelling evidence that genetic factors contribute to risk.

For some women the inherited predisposition is strong, and shows up as a family history of ovarian, breast and other cancers in multiple generations at an early age. Such families reflect inherited mutations in these genes (like BRCA1 and BRCA2) that are rare in the population and account for only 12 to 15 percent of cases. There is emerging consensus that a far greater burden of disease is due to the combination of more subtle common genetic variants along with lifestyle factors.

About H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

Located in Tampa, Florida on the University of South Florida campus, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute ( is the only Florida-based cancer center with the NCI designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center for its excellence in research and contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt currently has 15 affiliates in Florida, one in Georgia and two in Puerto Rico. Additionally, Moffitt is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a prestigious alliance of the country’s leading cancer centers, and is listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Hospitals for cancer. Moffitt’s sole mission is to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.