Newsletter December 2013

It has been another exciting year at the MERMAID Project, where the research at MERMAID II which brought about new, interesting results, as well as marking the start of the fundraising for MERMAID III.

MERMAID IIIresearch in cervical cancer
During the spring of 2013 the researchers completed an investigation focusing on inequality in the survival rate of cervical cancer among Danish women.
The results have been published in the notable American journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. The researchers found that:

– The survival rate following the diagnosis of cervical cancer was poorer among patients with shorter education, lower income and women with out partners. These differences were primarily explicable based on difference in the stage of the cancer at the point of diagnosis.
– There was a strong correlation between length of education and stage of cancer at point of diagnosis, meaning that women with shorter education were diagnosed with a more advanced cancer than women with longer education.
– Women with out a partner that they live with were also diagnosed at a later stage.

 

During Autumn 2013 the researchers in MERMAID III published results from an investigation of how HPV-testing can be used during screening procedures testing for cervical cancer. The investigation showed:

– That if a women tests negative for HPV, she has a very low risk of developing cervical cancer during the following 10 years. Thus, a negative HPV-test more strongly indicates that a woman will not develop cervical cancer, than does a normal cell test from the ovary. The researchers have therefore concluded, that the screening procedure testing for cervical cancer can be done more efficiently by incorporating HPV-testing into the procedure. The same test showed that:
– The so-called low-risk types of HPV should not be tested for during the screening of the cervix, as it can lead to too many referrals to gynecological specialists, and thus unnecessary worries among the women.

In another recently published investigation the researchers in MERMAID III looked at the occurrence of HPV among about 40.000 Danish women in the period prior to the launch of the HPV vaccine.
Hence, this investigation is a sound basis for evaluating the vaccine’s effect on the rate of HPV in Denmark. The investigation has been published in the renowned US journal Cancer Causes and Control.

MERMAID IIIresearch in ovarian cancer
During the spring the fundraising for the MERMAID Project’s most recent research project MERMAID III, The Challenge of Ovarian Cancer: Screening, early diagnosis, and identification of women at high risk, was kickstarted.

It was with great gratitude that the MERMAID Project in June was notified that Candy’s Foundation is to support MERMAID III with a donation of DKK 5 million. We are also extremely grateful for the many donations we have received from foundations that have supported the MERMAID Project in the past. We have thus secured DKK 5.5 million in finance for MERMAID III, out of the overall budget of DKK 40 million.

The objective of the research is for the researchers to develop a method or several methods that can diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage. Ovarian cancer is the type of gynecological cancer that claims the most lives among women in Europe and the United States. Only around 40% of women survive their diagnose. The reasons for developing ovarian cancer remain unknown; and its symptoms are often visible only at an advanced stage, which, to an extent, explains the low chance of survival.

Earlier diagnosis is an important breakthrough in order to improve survival. If all women were identified at the earliest stage possible, optimally, 200 women’s lives would be saved annually in Denmark, and from an international perspective, a great many more.

Three leading researchers, all three specialists within the field of ovarian cancer, are responsible for each their research project. These projects will attempt to develop feasible methods for early diagnosis. The teams of researchers involved all have extensive experience at an international level within their respective areas of interest. Additionally, the MERMAID III researchers are cooperating with researchers from John Hopkins Medical Institute in the United States and Karolinska Institute in Sweden, among others.

Denmark is a unique point of reference for these studies, thanks to its large database with personal identification numbers and other information on its citizens. The combination of a world class team of researchers, existing bio-banks and databases, as well as new technological advances, make MERMAID III a more advanced project than MERMAID I was when it commenced. Nevertheless, the researchers continuously build on the results and advances made during the earlier research completed on ovarian cancer in MERMAID I.

Please do not hesitate to access www.mermaidprojektet.dk to learn more about MERMAID I.

Best Wishes,
Birgitte Blix Treschow
Project Coordinator