Gala to benefit research, early detection and treatment of women's reproductive cancers

06/15/04

Gala event to raise awareness about reproductive cancers in women and to highlight new research initiatives at Yale will take place on June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Inn at Long Shore in Westport, Conn., 260 Compo Road South.

The black-tie benefit will support Yale's Gynecologic Oncology's program: Discovery to Cure: Advancing Prevention, Early Detection and Treatment of Women's Reproductive Cancers. The program seeks to produce early detection of reproductive organ cancers while providing women at increased risk for cancer with high quality, compassionate care.

Brett Somers, the master of ceremonies, will perform part of her cabaret show that is currently running in New York City. Somers is best known for her television roles in the 70s as Mrs. Oscar Madison on the "The Odd Couple" and as a regular panelist on the "Match Game" show. A highlight of the evening will be the presentation of a special award to recognize commitment to supporting cancer research or advancing clinical services for women with cancer.

One of the topics that will be addressed at the gala is ovarian cancer, which is one focus of the Section of Gynecologic Oncology of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine. This cancer is particularly difficult to detect in its early stages as patients have very few physical symptoms until the cancer has spread. There is no current procedure available to screen women for ovarian cancer, such as a Pap smear, which detects cervical cancer.

Gil Mor, M.D., and Thomas J. Rutherford, M.D., associate professors in the Section of Gynecologic Oncology at Yale, have identified significant new signaling pathways for ovarian cancer and are testing a new approach for treating women with recurrent ovarian cancer. They are investigating the use of Phenoxodiol, a drug known to unblock receptors vital to the destruction of cancer cells. Yale is the only site in the nation approved to use Phenoxodiol in a Phase II clinical trial for ovarian cancer patients.

"The goal is to detect ovarian cancer while it is confined to the ovaries so that treatment will be more effective," said Peter E. Schwartz, M.D., the John Slade Ely Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the program's executive director. "Program investigators like Drs. Gil Mor, and David and Patricia Ward are making significant advances in developing tests to analyze serum proteins that are made to excess in women with ovarian cancer. They are also developing office-based tests to permit the rapid detection of genetic mutations in women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancers."

Yale physicians and scientists have advanced the practice of modern medicine and pioneered many viable new treatments for cancer patients currently in use today, from the development of chemotherapy in the 1950s to the latest drug therapy for ovarian cancer patients whose cancer cells have become resistant to chemotherapy.

"Beyond promising clinical trials, the next few years represent a tremendous opportunity for Yale to develop a pace-setting new approach for the prevention and early detection of ovarian cancer as well as other cancers such as breast, cervical and uterine cancer that affect women," said Schwartz.

"The current environment of shrinking financial resources for clinical services and reduced funding for cancer research is challenging our continuing mission to pioneer new approaches to care for women with reproductive cancers," said Charles J. Lockwood, M.D., the Anita O'Keefe Young Professor of Women's Health and Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. "We are deeply grateful to those who have supported us in our vital effort to establish an innovative program in Yale Gynecologic Oncology."

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