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Your Environment. Your Health.

New Tool for Assessing Ovarian Cancer

Jason Bielas, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
NIEHS Grant R01ES019319

An NIEHS grantee and colleagues developed a new technique that could potentially help predict ovarian treatment response, cancer recurrence, and disease-free survival earlier and more effectively than current methods.

For many types of cancer, counting the number of tumor-attacking immune cells (TILs) that have migrated into the tumor offers a way to predict a patient’s survival. The number of TILs indicate the body’s immune response to the cancer, but current methods for counting TILs are either technically challenging or exhibit too much variability to be used for clinical decisions. The new approach, which the researchers call QuanTILfy, uses droplet digital polymerase chain reaction technology to count TILs reliably, quickly, and cheaply.

The researchers tested QuanTILfy on tumor samples from 30 ovarian cancer patients, who had survival times ranging from one to 22 months. The results showed an association between higher TIL counts and improved survival among women with ovarian cancer, which was consistent with other studies that had found that a person’s immune response against ovarian cancer can be used to estimate survival.

The ability to reproducibly compute TILs in tumors with sensitivity could allow doctors to stratify and more effectively treat patients based on tumor TIL counts.

Citation: Robins HS, Ericson NG, Guenthoer J, O'Briant KC, Tewari M, Drescher CW, Bielas JH. 2013. Digital genomic quantification of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. Sci Transl Med. 5(214):214ra169.

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