UNM Team Closer to Goal of Detecting Risk of Endometrial Cancer Recurrence

Healthy women may soon be able to take a simple blood test to determine if they have endometrial cancer, and women with the cancer may be able to find out if they're at high risk for recurrence, as a result of research being conducted at the UNM Cancer Research & Treatment Center.


Conducting the breakthrough research is a team led by Kimberly Leslie, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the Reproductive Molecular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UNM School of Medicine. Leslie also is program co-director of the Women's and Hormone-Dependent Cancer Program at the UNM Cancer Research & Treatment Center.


A disease that originates in the endometrial lining of the uterus, endometrial cancer is the most common invasive gynecological cancer in the United States and the fourth most common cancer in U.S. women.  There are about 39,000 new cases of endometrial cancer every year in the U.S. and nearly 7,000 deaths. The average age of women with this type of cancer is 60.


Incidence of endometrial cancer has increased 300 percent in the last decade among New Mexican women of Native American descent.


Using a relatively small number of patients, Dr. Leslie conducted a pilot test using special computer software and found that a particular protein algorithm is more than 85 percent sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of endometrial cancer from patient serum. Dr. Leslie and her team are now well on their way to achieving their first goal of developing a simple blood test that can identify endometrial cancer potentially very early in the process.


Working toward their second goal of detecting recurrence of endometrial cancer, the team will test the serum of more than 3,000 women from across the United States who have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, to determine who has progression after surgery and use serum from these patients to develop a blood test for recurrence.


Other team members are Charlotte Mobarak, Ph.D., Harriet Smith, M.D., Suzy Davies, Ph.D. and Larry Sklar, Ph.D., all with the UNM Health Sciences Center, and Robert Rubin, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. An abstract submitted by the team to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) was accepted for presentation at the AACR annual meeting in Toronto later this month.


Dr. Leslie thanks recent contributors who have funded her research, including John and Carol Beach of Loveland, Colo., who have contributed more than $99,000 from the Barbara Cory Beach Memorial Fund. Other contributors are Shirley Leslie, a local philanthropist and UNM President's Club who has contributed $7,500 and Dean and Alice Irvin, local community philanthropists, who have contributed $5,000 from the Irvin Gift fund established with the UNM Cancer Research & Treatment Center for new research studies.


The UNM Cancer Research & Treatment Center, founded in 1972, is the only health care facility in the state dedicated to both cancer research and patient care.

Contact: Lynn Melton, 272-3322

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