Newsletter summer 2016

Dear donors and friends of MERMAID

In the summer of 2015 the research in MERMAID III could commence grace many important and substantial donations from foundations, corporate and private individuals.

We can confirm that the research is progressing on schedule.

“MERMAID III – The challenge of ovarian cancer: Screening, early diagnosis and the identification of women at high risk”.

The goal of the research is to identify one or more methods of diagnosing ovarian cancer at an

early stage. The background of the research is that ovarian cancer is the type of gynecological cancer that causes the most number of deaths among women in Europe and the United States.

Only around 40% of women diagnosed survive. However, 90% of women diagnosed at an early stage survive, whereas a mere 5-10% survives when diagnosed at a later stage. Hypothetically, via identifying all women at the earliest stage, the survival rate could increase to 90%.

The research

The research in MERMAID III is coordinated by professor Bent Ottesen, center director Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital.

The project is divided into three sub-projects with the aim to identify methods for early diagnosis from a multiple of angles.

Early detection and longer survival.

Head of research professor Susanne Krüger Kjær, The Dansih Cancer Society, Kræftens Bekæmpelse and Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospiltalet.

In this project the researchers will established a bio-bank with cell samples from the cervix of 200.000 women, samples that are taken routinely from all women as they are screened for cervical cancer. Moreover an existing biobank is used that contains samples from 50.000 Danish women. From the samples, cells from the ovaries can be isolated and genetic material can be mapped.

The collection of data and biological material is ongoing and on track. Cell samples from the uterine cervix have currently been collected from around 100 ovarian cancer patients and health controls. In addition, tissue samples (slides) from the corresponding ovarian tumor has been obtained.

This material has been shipped to our collaborator – Professor Bert Vogelstein – at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, USA, where they are going to be tested for mutations in certain genes.

By using these cells originating from the ovary, it is the hope that it will be possible to detect and characterize cancer cells and/or precursor lesions from the ovary in an early stage and thereby improve survival significantly. The project is running according to the schedule and the testing is anticipated to be finished in around 6 months

Biomarkers and/or prognostic markers

Head of the research is Professor Claus Høgdall, Copenhagen University Hospital. 

The project concern women already treated for ovarian cancer. The women’s tissue and blood are examined with the latest molecular analyses in order to identify markers which are characteristic of the disease. A good diagnostic marker will increase the chance of detecting the cancer at an early stage in which the disease can be cured. A good predictive marker can contribute to newer individualized treatment, such as biological treatment.

Molecular biological microRNA analyses have been completed on tissue from 198 patients. At present, we have examined all the known 1756 microRNA for each patient. The findings has already resulted in a published scientific article

Another manuscript is ready to be submitted for publication, in which we show that a microRNA profile can predict resistance to the chemotherapy, which is used in the treatment of ovarian cancer. This may have importance for the treatment of patients suffering from cancer.

The study on chemotherapy resistance was selected for presentation at the annual meeting in the Danish Gynecologic Cancer group. In addition, an abstract has been accepted for oral presentation by the Congress: European Society of Gynaecologic Oncology in september 2016.

Cooperation with professor R. Bast, from MD. Anderson, United States, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of ovary cancer markers has gone according to plan.

The work is concentrated on clarifying the function of the gene p53 in women suffering from ovarian cancer. Knowledge of p53 may have a potential role for the treatment of women in the future. The planned studies follows the schedule in this part-protocol, except for the microRNA study that is ahead of schedule.

The infection theory

Professor Jan Blaakær, Skejby Hospital is the head of the research.

The project will utilize highly sensitive, molecular and biological analytical methods to discern whether ovarian cancer might caused by a bacteria or a virus, as is the case with cervical cancer, which can today be prevented with a vaccine.

Robert Kurmann, Baltimore, USA published in October 2010 the observation that a serous carcinoma in situ (STIC) in the tubal epithelium might be a precursor of ovarian cancer. This observation has been confirmed from other studies, but no one has been able to explain why STIC arises.

In other anatomical locations, e.g. the cervix, the carcinoma in situ is caused by an infection, viral or bacterial. Therefore, we have generated the infection theory as a possible infection ascending from the vaginal epithelium to the tubes and the peritoneal cavity.

We have written and submitted a systematic review dealing with an infection as the etiological factor in ovarian cancer. This paper is the theoretical base for the Ph.D. study connected to the research project.

Thereafter, we have examined 198 ovarian cancer patients for the possible role of HPV as being the causative virus. We did not expect a correlation to HPV, but it was obvious to make this study not to overlook a known carcinogen. The next step is to examine the same 198 patients for the possible correlation to CMV virus, although we are of the opinion that the most likely factor is of bacterial origin. Therefore, we have prepared this examination as the next step in elucidating “The Infection Theory”.

The Mermaid research study ”The Infection Theory” has progressed as planned.

Donations and duration

MERMAID III is the MERMAID Project’s largest research project to date with a budget of DKK40 million of which DKK 31,5 has been received in funds and commitments.

We are deeply grateful for all of the donations received to the research.

The research is expected to span over the next seven years.

We look forward to keeping you informed of the progresses of the research.

With the best wishes for a pleasant summer.


Kind Regards,

On behalf of the MERMAID Project

Birgitte Blix Treschow

Project Coordinator, MERMAID