A newly identified subtype of ovarian cancer that builds its own blood vessels may be vulnerable to agents that block blood vessel formation.

Many ovarian cancers are initially sensitive to platinum-based chemotherapy drugs, but the vast majority of these tumors eventually recur. In a recent study, researchers scanned the genetic activity within high-grade serous ovarian cancers in 129 women with advanced disease. They noted a distinct subtype in which many of the genes were known to be involved in angiogenesis. A second analysis of data from 1,606 women with ovarian cancer confirmed the existence of the angiogenic subtype, also revealing that tumors of this subtype tended to be more advanced and aggressive than other ovarian cancers.

The angiogenic subtype may account for one-third of all serous ovarian cancers, a common cancer of the ovarian surface, estimated John Quackenbush, PhD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues (PLoS One. 2012;7[2]:30269; www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030269).

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Although ovarian cancer is notable for its initial sensitivity to platinum-based chemotherapy agents, the cancer usually recurs and becomes increasingly resistant to these drugs. Identifying the angiogenic subtype in patients could influence treatment and improve outcomes for a significant number of women if adding angiogenesis-blocking drugs to the therapeutic regimen proves to be effective against this form of ovarian disease.