Ovarian Cancer Research Highlights

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths in women living in the United States than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. The American Cancer Society’s research programs help find answers to critical questions:

How can ovarian cancer be diagnosed early?
How can the risk of developing ovarian cancer be lowered?
Are there more effective treatments?
What could help survivors have a better quality of life?

We continue to fund research to help save more lives in the future.  

Spotlight on ACS Ovarian Cancer Research Publications

The American Cancer Society (ACS) employs a staff of full-time researchers and funds scientists across the United States who relentlessly search for answers to help us better understand cancer, including ovarian cancer. Here are some highlights of their work.

Glowing “Fingerprint” from a Blood Test May Find Ovarian Cancer Early

“Ovarian cancer is very hard to detect, but if it can be caught early, it is much easier to treat. My lab found that carbon nanotubes -- tiny fluorescent particles -- can respond to proteins in the blood and give a diverse set of signals. We used machine learning algorithms to make sense of these signals. We found that our nanosensors  can be used to detect ovarian cancer better than conventional markers, and they may be able to be adapted to detect many other cancers.”  –Daniel Heller, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Heller's published study.


A New Gene Is Linked with the Deadliest Type of Ovarian Cancer

“About 75% of epithelial ovarian cancers are high-grade serous carcinomas. These cancers are complex and variable, making them difficult to treat. In earlier studies, my lab learned that blocking the protein USP13 causes ovarian cancer cells to die and the growth of tumors to dramatically slow. So we developed a new mouse model to allow us to better study the role of USP13 protein in epithelial ovarian cancer.

“USP13 is barely present in a non-cancerous ovary or fallopian tube, but it’s present at high levels in ovarian cancers—and high levels of USP13 are linked with poor survival. With our mouse model, we demonstrated that USP13 enhances the development, growth, and spread of high-grade epithelial ovarian cancers. In the future, we hope to develop a specific USP13 inhibitor to treat ovarian tumors with high level of USP13. We also hope to identify and learn about other targets to overcome metastasis and chemotherapy resistance in these deadly ovarian tumors.” —Cecil Han, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Han's published study.


Researchers Study Fallopian Tube Cells from Cancer-Free Women to Learn More About the Origin of Ovarian Cancer

“We still have a lot to learn about the fallopian tube and its role in ovarian cancer development and, potentially, prevention. We used a new technology to profile the genes expressed in individual cells in the fallopian tube to identify if a specific subset of cells are the likely cells-of-origin for the most common subtype of ovarian tumors, high-grade serous epithelial cancers.

”We found a lot of heterogeneity within the epithelium of the fallopian tube, including a population of cells that share molecular features with advanced tumors, suggesting they may be the main cell precursors of high-grade serous tumors.

“Importantly, our results were consistent with another study that was recently published by the Ahmed laboratory in the UK. Our hope is that in the long-term we can use these data to develop new strategies for cancer prevention or early detection.” —Kate Lawrenson, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Lawrenson's published study.


Researchers Try Using Teeny Nanoparticles to Deliver Drugs to Metastasized Ovarian Cancers in Mice

Researchers have explored nanoparticles as a vehicle to deliver anti-cancer drugs to solid tumors. They’re mostly injected intravenously, and they’re able to accumulate in tumors by taking advantage of the leakiness of the blood vessels surrounding the tumors. However, typically less than 1% of an injected dose reaches the tumors.

“To treat ovarian tumors growing in the abdominal space in mice, my lab team administered nanoparticles directly into this cavity and discovered that the majority of the nanoparticles ended up on the tumor’s surface because of the way they interacted with the structures that surround the tumor cells, called the extracellular matrix. We demonstrated that collagen plays a major role in facilitating this interaction.” —Xiuling Lu, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Lu's published study.

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Grants in Ovarian Cancer

43 Grants with $15 Million of Funding as of January 4, 2023

We Fund Cancer Researchers Across the US

The American Cancer Society funds scientists who conduct research about cancer at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research projects proposals to fund. 

ACS Cancer Prevention Studies

The American Cancer Society's Population Science department includes scientists who work with our large, on-going cancer prevention studies (CPS), such as CPS-II and CPS-3. 

Ovarian Cancer Statistics in Brief

Ovarian Cancer Still Causes More Deaths Than Any Other Gynecologic Cancer 

Each year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) Surveillance & Health Equity Science team publishes the latest data on cancer trends for the United States, including ovarian cancers, as part of its Cancer Statistics report in the ACS journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. This report is accompanied by an educational publication, Cancer Facts & Figures report. 

These publications provide detailed analyses and estimates of cancer incidence, survival, and mortality trends in the US. They also have the latest information on risk factors, early detection, treatment, and current research.

2022 Statistics for ovarian cancer in the US include:

  • An estimated 19,880 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in 2022. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause, and half of all ovarian cancers are found in women age 63 or older.
  • Most women will be diagnosed with high-grade serous tumors, which have the fewest known risk factors and the worst prognosis. 
  • About 12,810 women will die from ovarian cancer in 2022. Ovarian cancer is responsible for more cancer deaths than any other gynecologic cancer.

Women with a higher risk of ovarian cancer include those with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Other medical conditions and characteristics associated with a risk for developing ovarian cancer are a personal history of:

  • An inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or Lynch syndrome
  • Breast cancer
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Menopausal hormone therapy/hormone replacement therapy
  • Excess body weight (4% of ovarian cancer cases are attributed to excess body weight)

Find more statistics about ovarian cancer on the Cancer Statistics Center:

  • Estimated new cases and deaths by state
  • Historical trends in incidence rates 
  • Historical trends in death rates
  • 5-year survival rates

Use the analysis tool in the drop-down menu to see any of these statistics in comparison to other types of cancer.