St. Joe’s Ann Arbor Gynecologic Oncology Team Receives Grant to Fund Pilot Project for Ovarian Cancer Patients

Rebecca Liu, MD, Nicole Brashear, NP, and the gynecologic oncology team at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor received the 2019 Geri Fournier Ovarian Cancer Research Award from the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MIOCA). The $50,000 grant will fund their pilot project for ovarian cancer patients.

MIOCA announced the research grant on May 8, World Ovarian Cancer Day. Since it started giving grants in 2014, MIOCA has awarded over a half-million dollars to researchers in Michigan who are finding new ways to improve the early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer.

St. Joe’s project, titled, “EASE: Education, Alliance, Solace and Empowerment for Ovarian Cancer Patients” was designed by Dr. Liu and her team, and is a comprehensive curriculum to complement the care and management of ovarian cancer patients.

In this program, Dr. Liu and her team will integrate assessment, education and support in a shared medical appointment that fosters social support among participants. They will focus on six key components – cancer basics, chemotherapy, diet and exercise, complementary and alternative medicine, intimacy and psychosocial support.

“Utilizing a comprehensive shared medical appointment program among ovarian cancer patients has the potential to significantly improve our quality of care and subsequently enhance our patients’ clinical outcomes,” Dr. Liu described.

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of gynecological cancers and the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, about 22,530 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed, and 13,980 women will die from the disease in the United States. It is also estimated that 730 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in Michigan in 2019, and 490 women will die from the disease. There have been modest gains in survival rates for ovarian cancer over the past few decades, but the cure rate has not changed. Due to the lack of an early detection test, only 15% of ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, and most women are not aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease. A woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 78, and her chance of dying from the disease is about 1 in 108.

Dr. Liu’s project was among the latest round of research grants approved by MIOCA’s Board of Directors following careful deliberations and analysis, in recognition of the need for a comprehensive approach to ovarian cancer including new clinical treatments as well as new approaches to patient education and support.

“Each and every research project we fund has the potential to result in improved understanding of the disease that will hopefully transform lives for women across Michigan and beyond,” said MIOCA Founder and President, Pam Dahlmann.

As a member of the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Program (NCORP), St. Joe’s Ann Arbor leads the Michigan Cancer Research Consortium (MCRC), a network of 13 hospitals that collaboratively enroll thousands of patients on clinical trials each year. The MCRC-NCORP has been continually funded for 24 years, with 100 studies open at any given time. It is one of 47 research programs established by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to provide patients with access to national cancer research studies while remaining in their own communities. Learn more at www.mcrconline.org.

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