Despite advances in cancer therapy, mortality of women with ovarian cancer has remained constant over the last 20 years. In the US, ~23,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and ~13,000 deaths occur. Of particular note is that the survival rate is less than 30% for those with Stage III cancer as opposed to 95% for Stage I diagnoses. Therefore, early detection is crucial to successful recovery. Currently, none of the existing serum biomarkers; e.g., CA 125 and CA 72-4, are reliable enough for accurate diagnosis of early stage ovarian cancer.
Dr Edward Schuchman and his colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have discovered that the activity of the enzyme acid ceramidase (AC) in serum correlates with the occurrence of ovarian cancer in patients. AC is a key enzyme in the sphingolipid signaling pathway and regulates cell proliferation and apoptosis. AC activity is elevated in cancer cells and has been studied as a viable cancer target for drug discovery. Dr Schuchman has shown that cancerous cells and tissues secrete AC into the blood at detectable levels and in patients with ovarian cancer these levels are higher, even in patients with early stage I cancer. The same elevation did not occur in woman with benign ovarian growths. In collaboration with surgeons of the Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr Schuchman also showed that the serum levels of AC returned to normal after removal of the ovarian tumor. We propose using AC as a critical biomarker to predict the occurrence of ovarian cancer and to monitor treatment response.
Patent Status: Patent Pending