• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

New personalized approach to treat ovarian cancer

April 30, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Treating ovarian cancer has typically been done on a "one size fits all" basis. But a cancer researcher and survivor thought there was a better way. Thanks to her, a new approach - profiling each tumor sample individually -has created a more personalized and effective treatment.

Helen Gardner surrounds herself with beautiful art. Her life was uprooted when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She had chemo and surgery, but her cancer came back.

"Your life expectancy is less than five years," said Gardner.

But Gardner wasn't ready to give up. She found the Clearity Foundation, a nonprofit that offers hope for women like her.

"Eighty percent of people respond to the traditional chemotherapy, but then 80 percent of us recur," said founder Laura Shawver.

Shawver says when this cancer recurs, treatment choices aren't clear.

"Right now, it's 'pick out of a hat' guesswork as to which one it will be. I just think as a scientist, well, we can do better than that," said Shawver.

The foundation performs molecular profiling. Tumors are sent to labs and analyzed. Patients are then provided treatment suggestions based on their tumor's specific genetic make-up.

"We're doing something that I feel the medical community and the insurance community should already be doing," said Shawver.

Gardner found a trial testing a drug that matched her tumor's profile. She had a second surgery, and while the future's unknown, she remains hopeful.

"I'm getting ready to finish year four of those five years they gave me," said Gardner.

So far, the Clearity Foundation has profiled the tumors of 315 women. The cost could be anywhere from $500 to $5,000. Insurance often picks up the expense, but the foundation will cover the cost of people who are uninsured.

Load Comments