Newsletter December 2014

Dear friends of MERMAID,

As the year comes to an end, the MERMAID team would like to take the chance to inform you of the most recent developments of the project from the second half of 2014. Several noteworthy publications and events have been launched in the past few months, and the project team would like to express our warmest thanks to you donors, whose contributions enable this important research.
We look forward to further informing you regarding the progress of the research on April 25th 2015, where we hope to see you for a lunch hosted by MERMAID’s founder at Selchausdal by Ruds Vedby. A formal invitation will follow, but we encourage you to save the date at this stage.

MERMAID II – Research in cervical cancer
During the Autumn of 2014, the researchers leading MERMAIID II have established important results regarding the risk of high-grade precursor lesions and cervical cancer following injection of specific types of human papillomavirus (HPV). The researchers found, that the risk was highest following infection with HPV type 16. Among the women who had HPV 16 infection at the start of the research project, around 22% had developed high-grade precursor lesions or cervical cancer after 8 years. Simultaneously, the risk was also significant following infection with HPV type 18, 31 or 33 (around 11-13% after 8 years). On the other hand, the risk for developing high-grade precursor lesions or cervical cancer was far lower among women who had another HPV type than the aforementioned four types. The results have been accepted in the acclaimed International Journal of Cancer.

The results are significant on two levels. Firstly, they contribute to our understanding of the nature of HPV infections and their consequences. Secondly, they are important as they show how HPV-testing can be used in screening programmes for the detection of cervical cancer. Hence, methods can be developed to identify women who are at the highest risk for developing cervical cancer, and avoid unnecessary alarm among women who are at low risk of developing the disease.

As part of the same research project, the researchers also investigated whether there was a correlation between the amount of HPV DNA in a woman and her risk of developing cancer. The research showed, that women with a high amount of HPV 16 DNA in a cell test from the cervix was at higher risk of developing high-grade precursor lesions than women with a lower amount of HPV 16 DNA. However, among the latter group the risk remained significant. This further supports the fact that HPV 16 is a particularly dangerous form of HPV, and that women with infected with it should always be monitored closely, to avoid its eventual development into cervical cancer.

MERMAID III– research on ovarian cancer
During 2014 researchers and members of the board and advisory committee have all contributed to fundraising for MERMAID’s latest research project: MERMAID III: Screening, early diagnosis and the identification of women at high risk!

With a budget of DKK 40 million, MERMAID III is the most extensive research project conducted by MERMAID.
It is with great pleasure and gratitude, that the MERMAID project has thus far received donations and commitments to donations totalling DKK 8.5 million, of which DKK 5 million have been donated by Candys Foundation, and a further DKK 2 million by The Novo Nordisk Foundation. We are extremely grateful for all the generous donations we have received, partially from foundations that have earlier supported theMERMAID project. We hope to receive further financial support from foundations to whom we have presented the research over the past year. It will be an important and joyful day when the researchers can start the crucial research, which they will do when a further DKK 5 million have been committed.

The research is focused on developing one or more methods that will help diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage.

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly form of gynecological cancer among women in Europe and the United States. Only around 40% of those diagnosed survive. The causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, and the disease often only exhibits symptoms at a relatively late stage, which is the main reason for the high death rate. A major breakthrough to improve the survival rate would be early identification and diagnosis. If all women were identified at an early stage, ideally, it would be possible to save the lives of 200 women in Denmark alone – and many more in an international perspective.

Three researchers, who are all specialists within research in ovarian cancer, are responsible for each their research project. These will from different angles try to develop applicable methods for the purpose of early diagnosis. The research teams involved all have extensive experience with research at an international level within their respective areas of interest. The research for the MERMAID III Project has been carried out in close cooperation with researchers from, among others, John Hopkins Medical Institutes, Baltimore, USA and Karolinska Institute, Sweden.
Denmark is a unique point of departure for these studies, given its particular system of personal identity identification. The combination of a team of world-class researchers, existing bio-banks and databases and new technological advances make MERMAID III a more advanced project than when MERMAID I commenced. However, the researchers build on the earlier results from MERMAID I in the new studies. (Read about MERMAID I on www.mermaidprojektet.dk).

Kind Regards,
On behalf of the MERMAID Project
Birgitte Blix Treschow
Project Coordinator, MERMAID