The mission of the Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program (OCEDP) is to develop, within five years, a clinical test to screen women for early markers of ovarian cancer.
Our goal is to detect ovarian cancer in its earliest stages when the survival rate is greater than 90%. Earlier detection will enhance the treatment options for women since women who are diagnosed early require less extensive surgery and less toxic chemotherapy.
Recent OCEDP News
Members of the OCEDP have recently published their research findings in the journal Clinical Proteomics. The purpose of the study was to determine whether the residual fixative from a liquid-based Pap test or a swab of the cervix contained proteins that were also found in the primary tumor of a woman with high grade serous ovarian cancer. The proposed strategy takes advantage of the proximity of the cervix to the ovary (i.e. proteins may be secreted or shed from the tumor and flow through the fallopian tube into the uterus and out the cervical opening), and uses already-obtained diagnostic material, which may help with cost-containment and accessibility. This study is the first step in determining the feasibility of using the liquid-based Pap test or a cervical swab for the detection of ovarian cancer protein biomarkers. The data demonstrate that ovarian cancer biomarkers can be detected in Pap test fluid or a cervical swab by mass spectrometry-based proteomics. In addition to identifying multiple known biomarkers, over 2000 proteins were detected in all three biospecimens, suggesting a potential role for novel biomarker discovery. Because Pap test screening is widely accepted, the development of the Pap test as a screening tool for both cervical and ovarian cancers might improve the efficacy of testing for a lethal but elusive disease. The results provide proof of concept: that Pap test fluid or cervical swabs could be used for detection of ovarian cancer biomarker proteins, and this approach warrants further investigation. The manuscript was published online in the January 7, 2021 issue of Clinical Proteomics. A link to the publication is provided here.
This research was also featured as a Research Brief by the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Amy Skubitz was interviewed for her research project that focuses on the early detection of ovarian cancer that was recently funded by the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance. The interview was aired on WDIO-TV in Duluth on December 2 as part of the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance’s “Trees of Hope” fundraising campaign. A link to the interview is here.
1) Dr. Amy Skubitz presented a lecture entitled, “Identification of candidate ovarian cancer protein biomarkers in liquid-based Pap tests by mass spectrometry-based proteomics” at the Ovarian Cancer Midwest Focus Conference that was held virtually on November 5-6.
2) Dr. Amy Skubitz was awarded $100,000 from the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance for her grant application entitled, “Early detection of ovarian cancer: Use of targeted mass spectrometry to identify women with ovarian cancer using their Pap test samples.”
3) Dr. Skubitz was one of the four researchers who was featured at the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance Awards Ceremony on November 19th for receiving funding for their research grants. A link to the acceptance speeches by Dr. Skubitz and each of the awardees is here.
4) A collaborative research project with members of the OCEDP and Dr. Melissa Geller resulted in the publication of a manuscript entitled, “Cytomegalovirus and systemic inflammation at time of surgery is associated with worse outcomes in serous ovarian cancer” appeared in the journal Gynecologic Oncology and can be downloaded here.
1) Dr. Stefani Thomas and Dr. Amy Skubitz were awarded a collaborative Innovation Initiative grant from the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology for their research project entitled, “Development and validation of a multiplexed, targeted mass spectrometry assay to detect ovarian cancer protein biomarkers in serum samples”. This grant will provide funding of $75,000 annually for two years.
2) Dr. Amy Skubitz presented her research at the virtual Ovarian Cancer Supergroup meeting on October 19. Her lecture was entitled, “Repurposing Pap tests for the detection of ovarian cancer proteins.”
Dr. Amy Skubitz served as the Chairperson of a peer review panel of the 2020 Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) for the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) on September 15-16.
Members of the OCEDP have recently published their research findings in which they used synthetic peptides to inhibit the formation of ovarian cancer 3D multicellular aggregates (spheroids). Spheroids are less sensitive to chemotherapy, in part due to the protection afforded by their structure, but also due to their slower proliferation rate. Dr. Skubitz's team had previously shown that the cell adhesion molecule Nectin-4 plays a key role in the formation of ovarian cancer spheroids. In this study, they further examined the role of Nectin-4 at early time points in spheroid formation using real-time digital photography. They showed that synthetic peptides derived from Nectin-4 inhibited spheroid formation in ovarian cancer cell lines in a concentration-dependent manner and was not cytotoxic. These studies suggest that treatment with this Nectin-4 peptide could maintain the cancer cells as single cells, which may then be more sensitive to chemotherapy. Their manuscript was published online in the June 30, 2020 issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. A link to the publication is provided here.
Dr. Amy Skubitz presented one of the OCEDP's biomarker research projects at the University of Minnesota Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Research Forum on February 13. Her lecture was entitled, "Identification of early stage ovarian cancer protein biomarkers in a multiplex platform.” Dr. Skubitz’s lecture focused on the progress that the OCEDP has made toward the validation of ovarian cancer biomarkers that they identified using Olink Proseek multiplex plates. She described the research that was conducted in which several proteins were found to be present at significantly different levels in the serum samples of women with early stages of ovarian cancer compared to the serum of healthy women.
The Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund selected Dr. Amy Skubitz’s grant application to be awarded $50,000 toward the purchase of an IncuCyte S3 Imaging System. Researchers in the OCEDP will now be able to quantify a wide variety of ovarian cancer cell functions such as migration, spreading, proliferation, viability, and spheroid formation. This instrument will allow for high throughput screening of compounds to test for their ability to increase the toxicity of standard chemotherapeutic agents. The instrument will be housed in the University Imaging Center to allow easy access to all University of Minnesota researchers.
1) Dr. Amy Skubitz served on the Program Committee of the Regional meeting of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories that was held in Minneapolis, MN on November 3rd-5th. She also served on the planning committee for the Sustainability Symposium to recruit speakers and develop the session.
2) Dr. Kristin Boylan presented a lecture entitled, “Searching for needles in a haystack: Identification of early stage ovarian cancer protein biomarkers in a multiplex platform” at the Ovarian Cancer Midwest Focus Conference that was held in St. Paul, MN on November 4th-5th, 2019.
3) The Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Greater California donated $5000 to the OCEDP to continue our ongoing research on the early detection of ovarian cancer.
4) On November 26th, the University of Minnesota Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship from the Office of the Vice President for Research selected Dr. Amy Skubitz’s grant application to be awarded $35,000 toward the purchase of an IncuCyte S3 Imaging System. This funding will go toward the purchase of this $175,000 shared instrument.
1) On October 7th, members of the OCEDP presented their research at the University of Minnesota 14th Annual Women's Health Research Conference. Dr. Amy Skubitz presented a poster entitled, “Improving the detection of ovarian cancer by a blood test”. Her poster abstract was selected for an award of excellence in the faculty category. As a Poster Merit Award winner, she was also asked to host a Table Topic Open Networking Session at the breakout session. Dr. Kristin Boylan presented a poster entitled, “Let’s not stick together: A novel method of preventing ovarian cancer cell aggregation”.
2) Dr. Amy Skubitz was invited to present a lecture entitled, “Identification of stable serum proteins to serve as biomarkers for the early detection of ovarian cancer” at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center's Cancer Research Translational Initiative (CRTI) Symposium on October 8th. This year the focus of the symposium was on cancer biomarkers. Dr. Skubitz was one of 10 faculty members who presented their biomarker research, along with staff who presented various core facilities at the University of Minnesota that help with biomarker discovery and patenting.
3) Dr. Amy Skubitz met with members of the Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD at the 2019 CPTAC Scientific Symposium on October 16th. Several researchers who collaborate with Dr. Skubitz and members of the OCEDP on the Pap test project, including Dr. Karin Rodland, Dr. Tao Liu, and Dr. Paul Piehowski presented their proteogenomic results as part of the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research (OCCPR) and the CPTAC.
4) On October 17, the University of Minnesota Foundation/ Medical School selected Dr. Amy Skubitz’s grant application to be awarded $35,000 toward the purchase of an IncuCyte S3 Imaging System. This instrument will be shared by researchers at the University to study a variety of diseases by quantifying cell functions such as migration, spreading, proliferation, and viability. Once the total of $175,000 has been raised, the instrument will be purchased and housed in the University Imaging Center.
5) Staff from Olink Proteomics, who developed the multiplex plates that are used in the OCEDP, came to the University of Minnesota Genomics Center to provide training to staff at the Genomics Center. Dr. Skubitz, other faculty, and staff attended lectures and hands-on demonstrations on October 22nd-24th so that the Genomics Center is now certified to run Olink® multiplex plates from start-to-finish.
1) Members of the OCEDP presented their research at the American Association for Cancer Research special conference on Advances in Ovarian Cancer Research that was held in Atlanta, Georgia on September 13-16th. Dr. Amy Skubitz presented a poster entitled, “A serum protein biomarker signature for the detection of early stages of ovarian cancer” while Dr. Kristin Boylan presented a poster entitled, “Synthetic peptides derived from the cell adhesion molecule Nectin-4 inhibit the formation of ovarian cancer 3D spheroids”.
2) Dr. Amy Skubitz served as the Chairperson of a peer review panel of the 2019 Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) for the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) in Reston, VA on September 18-19.
3) Dr. Amy Skubitz served as a judge of posters at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Engineering in Medicine 7th Annual Conference held on September 23. Posters that were presented by graduate students, medical students, and post-doctoral fellows combined engineering with medical research.
Dr. Skubitz was invited to give a lecture at the monthly University of Minnesota Division of Gynecologic Oncology Education Conference on August 20, 2019. Her lecture was entitled, “Update on the Pap test project: Identification of ovarian cancer biomarkers”. Dr. Skubitz reported how the gynecologic oncology surgeons, fellows, and staff in the University of Minnesota’s Gynecologic Cancer Clinic have collaborated to procure more than 500 Mock Pap tests to be used for this research project. Dr. Skubitz provided an update on the mass spectrometry-based proteomic research that is currently underway.
1) Research that is ongoing in the Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program was featured in the July 1st issue of Ovarian Cancer News Today. The article was entitled, “Testing for multiple biomarkers at a time can increase early detection of OC”. A link to the article is provided here.
2) Findings published in Cancer Prevention Research by members of The Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program were featured as “Leading the News” in the July 6th issue of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s newsletter for the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, Aware: Women’s Cancer News Weekly. The article was entitled, “Testing for certain biomarkers may improve early ovarian cancer detection”.
3) Ashley Petersen, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health, presented her research at the Association of Clinical and Translational Statisticians 2019 Annual Meeting held on July 27-28, 2019 in Denver, CO. Her presentation was entitled, “Constructing multi-protein classifiers for early-stage ovarian cancer screening”. Dr. Petersen and her master’s degree student, Xuan Pu, had analyzed the OCEDP data that was comprised of the levels of 92 proteins in the sera of hundreds of women with early stage ovarian cancer versus healthy women.
1) Dr. Skubitz was invited to give a lecture at the Cancer Center’s Cellular Mechanism of Cancer Program seminar series on June 18, 2019. Her lecture was entitled, “Progress toward the development of a screening test for ovarian cancer: Selecting the right biomarkers”.
2) Faculty and staff of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the OCEDP hosted the Chemo Chicks for an evening of lectures and tours of the research laboratories on June 26, 2019. Dr. Skubitz gave a lecture entitled, “Ovarian cancer: Identification of biomarkers and a new trick for treatment”. The Chemo Chicks are a group of ovarian cancer survivors who are interested in the research projects that are ongoing in the OCEDP. This was the 5th year that the Chemo Chicks have visited the OCEDP.
1) At the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA) 20th Annual Meeting on May 14, Dr. Amy Skubitz was awarded $150,000 for her grant application entitled, “Verification of a biomarker panel for the early detection of ovarian cancer using serum samples from multiple sources.” Ms. Kate Geschwind, who just finished her second year at the University of Minnesota Medical School, accepted the award on behalf of the Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program. Ms. Geschwind’s speech included giving thanks to MOCA for selecting the project for another year of funding. In this project, Proseek Oncology II multiplex plates will be used to screen serum samples from women with early stages of ovarian cancer that were provided by collaborators at other institutions.
2) The research that is ongoing in the Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program was featured in the May 21st issue of HemOnc Today. The article was entitled, “Investigational blood-based assay could lead to earlier ovarian cancer detection” and included an interview with Dr. Amy Skubitz, Director of the OCEDP. A link to the article is provided here. A PDF of the article is provided here.
1) Dr. Amy Skubitz and members of the OCEDP team were awarded the 2019 Cookie Laughlin Pilot Study Award for their project entitled, “Validation of a multi-protein classifier for detecting early stages of ovarian cancer”. The $75,000 award is funded through the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research in Seattle, WA and will be used to continue our research on detecting early stages of ovarian cancer.
2) Dr. Amy Skubitz was one of the invited speakers at the Minnesota Chemoprevention Consortium at the Hormel Institute in Austin, MN on April 16. The title of her lecture was, "One small step for womankind: Developing a biomarker panel for the detection of ovarian cancer".
3) Dr. Amy Skubitz was featured on Kare 11 TV News on April 18-19, for her research that may eventually lead to developing the first early detection blood test for ovarian cancer. She explained how a panel of six biomarkers signal the presence of advanced stages of ovarian cancer. Dr. Skubitz and her team hope this breakthrough will result in a blood test for all women.
4) Heena Shah, a senior undergraduate researcher in the OCEDP, presented her honors research project at a poster session as part of the 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 25. Heena's poster was entitled, "A "sticky” situation: The role of Nectin-4 in the chemosensitivity of ovarian cancer cells"
The results of the OCEDP study using Olink's Proseek Oncology II multiplex plates were published in Cancer Prevention Research entitled, "Simultaneous measurement of 92 serum protein biomarkers for the development of a multi-protein classifier for ovarian cancer detection." The manuscript is now available online here. This research was also featured as a Research Brief by the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Amy Skubitz and Dr. Jian-Ping Wang (Department of Electric Engineering at the University of Minnesota) were joint senior authors of the manuscript entitled, “Development of a multiplexed giant magnetoresistive biosensor array prototype to quantify ovarian cancer biomarkers” which was published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics. The research in this manuscript is a culmination of a Pilot Project funded by the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program which provided salary support for Dr. Wang’s graduate student, Todd Klein, and OCEDP’s Dr. Kristin Boylan. The manuscript is now available online here.
Dr. Amy Skubitz was invited to give a lecture for the Biological Sciences Division Seminar at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA on January 7. Her lecture was entitled, "Early detection of ocarian cancer: Proteomic techniques for the discovery and validation of biomarkers in a variety of biospecimens"
Two research projects from the OCEDP were presented at the University of Minnesota's 13th Annual Women's Health Research Conference on October 1, 2018. Dr. Amy Skubitz presented a poster entitled, "Development of a blood test to screen women for ovarian cancer". Dr. Kristin Boylan presented a poster entitled, "Metaproteomic analysis of Pap test fluid: Insights into the cervical-vaginal microbiome of mature women"
1) Dr. Amy Skubitz gave a lecture at the 12th Biennial Ovarian Cancer Research Symposium presented by the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer and the American Association for Cancer Research. The symposium was held at the University of Washington in Seattle on September 13-15, 2018. The title of her lecture was “Development of a multi-protein classifier for ovarian cancer detection by simultaneous measurement of 92 serum proteins on Proseek Multiplex Oncology II plates.” In addition, Dr. Kristin Boylan presented a poster at the meeting, entitled, "Comparison of potential ovarian cancer biomarkers by mass spectrometry-based proteomic analysis of residual Pap test fluid, cervical swabs, and tumor tissue from an ovarian cancer patient".
2) Dr. Amy Skubitz presented an overview of the OCEDP's project on the role of Nectin-4 in ovarian cancer progression at the University of Minnesota's Institute for Engineering in Medicine Annual Conference and Retreat at the McNamara Alumni Center on September 24, 2018.
3) Dr. Amy Skubitz was invited to give a lecture on "Ovarian cancer early detection using biomarkers" at Boston Scientific headquarters in Maple Grove, MN as part of their Ovarian Cancer Awareness Symposium on September 27, 2018.
OCEDP undergraduate researcher Heena Shah presented a poster entitled "Chemosensitivy of Ovarian Cancer Single Cells and Spheroids" at the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Research Symposium on August 9, 2018.
The OCEDP's Dr. Kristin Boylan published a paper on the feasibility of utilizing residual Pap test fluid as a resource in the metaproteomic analysis of the cervical-vaginal microbiome.
View the paper on PubMed.
Faculty and staff of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the OCEDP hosted the Chemo Chicks for an evening of lectures and tours of the research laboratories on June 7, 2018. The Chemo Chicks are a group of ovarian cancer survivors who are interested in the research projects that are ongoing in the OCEDP. This was the 4th year that the Chemo Chicks have visited the OCEDP.
Research projects from the OCEDP were presented at the U.S. Human Proteome Organization 2018 Conference held in Minneapolis, MN on March 11-14. Dr. Skubitz presented a poster entitled, “Development of a multi-protein classifier for ovarian cancer detection by the simultaneous measurement of 92 serum proteins.” Ms. Anna Rogers, a graduate student in Dr. Skubitz’s laboratory, gave an oral presentation entitled, “Optimization of sample preparation methods for using residual Pap test fixatives for mass spectrometry-based proteomic identification of ovarian cancer biomarkers”.
Ms. Anna Rogers presented her research as a poster at the 2018 Masonic Cancer Center’s 8th Annual Cancer Research Symposium held in Minneapolis, MN on March 29. Her poster was entitled, “The search for ovarian cancer biomarkers in Pap test fixative”.
Dr. Skubitz gave a lecture to the Ovarian Cancer Supergroup at the University of Minnesota on January 17 entitled, “Identification of ovarian cancer biomarkers in serum samples using Olink Proseek® multiplex plates”
Dr. Amy Skubitz was the keynote scientific speaker at the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance's Light Duluth Teal Gala event held on September 23 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. This annual fundraiser for MOCA included a live auction and Duluth's aerial lift bridge was lit in teal in recognition of September being Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.
Amy P.N. Skubitz, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
Adjunct Professor, Dept Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health
University of Minnesota
420 Delaware Street, S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455