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Ovarian cancer classification system validated

Friday January 15th 2021

A newly developed method for subtyping ovarian cancer has been validated as accurately predicting disease outcome.

The “Oxford Classic” – short for the Oxford Classification of Carcinoma of the Ovary – was found to be accurate in a new independent set of samples from a group of ovarian cancer patients, overseen by researchers at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London.

The method, which was developed in Oxford last year, will provide more accurate predictions for disease outcome and will also help researchers to develop targeted therapies for each type of cancer, say the authors, reporting in Clinical Cancer Research.

They point to new findings regarding serous ovarian cancer (SOC), which is the most common ovarian cancer type, but challenging to classify and predict its prognosis. When using the Oxford Classic, they found that a specific SOC subtype, “EMT-high subtype” (epithelial-mesenchymal transition), was associated with a lower survival rate.

The research team identified that EMT-high subtypes were associated with large quantities of M2 macrophages, which have immunosuppressive properties and can lead to poorer treatment responses if they are found in high quantities within a tumour.

This study confirmed that the EMT-high subtype is associated with an immunosuppressive environment due to the association with more M2 macrophages, which has not previously been identified.

Professor Ahmed Ahmed, of the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health and originator of the Oxford Classic, said: “Our group is very excited that we were able to confirm that the Oxford Classic can predict which patients are likely to have poor outcome.

“It is now important to identify new personalised therapies for the Oxford Classic-defined EMT-high ovarian cancer subtype. The finding that there is a strong connection with abundant M2 macrophages already offers a good hint as to where we could find good treatment options for patients with this type.”

Professor Christina Fotopoulou, of Imperial College London, added: “We have generated very promising results towards an individualisation of care of our ovarian cancer patients. Our data will help clinicians to stratify patients to the right treatment pathway based on features of tumour biology of their disease."

The study authors say using the Oxford Classic to classify the EMT status of a tumour could potentially become a valuable part of future cancer stratification methods.

Hu Z, Cunnea P, Zhong Z et al. The Oxford Classic links epithelial-mesenchymal transition to immunosuppression in poor prognosis ovarian cancers. Clinical Cancer Research. January 2021. DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-2782


Tags: Cancer | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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