Newsletter winter 2016


Dear donors and friends of MERMAID

It is time to wish all our donators in the MERMAID Project a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

At the same time we would like to thank you for your valuable support in respect of the vital research in “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.

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


Early detection and long-term survival

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

In this sub-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 researchers have during the year studied the risk of developing ovarian cancer among women who have a certain type of borderline ovarian tumours. The results have been selected for presentation at the 106th Annual Meeting of the United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology. Furthermore, the results are described in a scientific paper, which has been accepted for publication.

They are also in the process of collecting data to study factors which have an impact on how long time a woman survives after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The study is based on nationwide data and collection of tissue samples from women who have ovarian cancer. The factors which are being studied include for example reproductive factors (e.g. number of births, age at birth of first/last child), socioeconomic factors (e.g. education, disposable income), other morbidity (e.g. infertility, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes), and the intake of different kinds of commonly used medicine.

Cell samples previously collected from the cervix of approximately 100 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and from healthy control women were sent this summer to MERMAIDs collaborators at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA (Professor Bert Vogelstein and Professor Ie-Ming Shih). The samples are being tested for mutations in certain genes. The results are expected to be ready early Spring next year.


Biomarkers and/or prognostic markers

Research Leader: Professor Claus Høgdall, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet.

In this project, researchers are examining biological material (blood and tissue) from women with ovarian cancer. The newest technologies are used with the aim of identifying biomarkers that are characteristic of the disease.

A biomarker can help to detect the cancer at an early stage when the disease is localized and can be cured. A useful prognostic marker may contribute by selecting patients for a personal more effective treatment such as biological treatment.

Changes of biomarker levels for 1756 different microRNAbiomarkers have been explored in cancer tissues from 200 patients. (MicroRNAs, are tiny molecules, which play a very important role in the regulation of genes in the cell.)

This has resulted in three scientific articles and a poster representation.

Collaboration has been established with department of Clinical Immunology, Region South, Næstved Hospital with the purpose to examine microRNA biomarkers in corresponding blood and tissue samples in order to:

  1. Examine whether the changes are identical between microRNA in tissues and blood and the possible clinical consequences.
  1. Study changes in blood between patients with ovarian cancer, benign tumours and healthy individuals, which mayimprove the ability to distinguish between patients with ovarian cancer, benign tumors or other benign or malignant conditions. This distinguishing may in the future offer faster and more accurate diagnostics earlier in the disease course, which in turn will lead to improved survival and fewer complications.

The cooperation with professor R. Bast, from MD. Anderson, United States, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of ovary cancer markers continues, with P53, a gene involved in the development of cancer. P53 will be examined on tissues and in blood. The detected changes can have an impact on the future treatment of women with ovarian cancer.

In addition DNA from tissue samples are now being analyzed with the new technology, Next-generation Sequencing (NGS). The DNA changes found can be correlated with the finding of the microRNA biomarkers and thereby enhance our knowledge with respect to ovarian cancer.

In the coming year, the focus will be on further in-depth gene/DNA investigations using the latest known molecular biological techniques.


The infection theory

Professor Jan Blaakær is the head of the research.

The Mermaid research study ”The Infection Theory” has progressed as planned but with a few minor adjustments.

The researchers have published the first paper internationally, “High-risk HPV is not associated with epithelial ovarian cancer in a Caucasian population”. (

They didn’t expect to demonstrate an etiological correlation between HPV and ovarian cancer, but knowing that HPV vira are causing many different cancers, they needed to examine this to be sure not to overlook a possibly connection.

Professor Robert Kurman, John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore published a possible change in the Fallopian tubes named as ‘carcinoma in situ’ and corresponding to the changes preceding cervical cancer. Therefore, we believe that it is of utmost importance to search for an infectious microbe causing carcinoma in situ and ultimately ovarian cancer.

In the researchers next paper they have examined the possible role of Cytomegal-virus (CMV) or Ebstein-Barr Virus (EBV) as the infectious microbes transforming peritoneal tissue to ovarian cancer. This paper will be published in April 2017, but at the moment, there is no reason to believe that these vira are the causing microbes.

The time and the technological development have made Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) affordable. This technique demonstrates the base sequences of DNA and by using this technique we will look for genetic material, or traces of microbes in ovarian cancer tissue. The NGS-study will be initiated in the middle of 2017.

This new possibility made a new search for our review paper necessary, and the revised review will be submitted January 2017.


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

Bent Ottesen can confirm that the research is progressing on schedule.


Donations and duration

MERMAID III is the MERMAID Project’s largest research project to date with a budget of DKK40 million of which 75 % 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.

During spring 2017 the independent research group, The Independent Audit Committee (IAC), will evaluate the research in MERMAID III and this evaluation will be sent to all donators.

At the MERMAID Project we are looking forward an interesting active year in 2017 in respect of important research and fundraising.

We thank you for all support and interest in MERMAID and wish you and your families a