Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004, Sherie Hildreth, z”l, has been a constant source of inspiration and funding for Dr. Tanja Pejovic, who heads a Gynecologic Cancer Lab at OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute.
“Sherie was very forward-thinking and noble and engaged,” says Dr. Pejovic. “She was thinking beyond herself.”
A lifelong member of Congregation Beth Israel, Sherie, like 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews, had a BRCA mutation. Sherie founded the Sherie Hildreth Ovarian Cancer Foundation in 2005 to support ovarian cancer research and awareness. For 12 years SHOC has hosted a fun run and walk, and other events, to raise funds for Dr. Pejovic’s lab.
“The OHSU Cancer Foundation told me it is rare to sustain an effort for 12 years,” says Dr. Pejovic. “These are ordinary people, not huge donors, who come together year after year. I have not missed a single year.”
With the current “revolution in cancer therapeutics,” Dr. Pejovic says Sherie’s legacy is playing a role. Though Sherie succumbed to a recurrence of her cancer in December 2009, Dr. Pejovic says, “We all think about her. She is always there.”
Over the years, SHOC has donated $730,000 to Dr. Pejovic’s research. “With SHOC support, we built the team that now includes two more labs and their expertise,” she says. “We are able to team up with colleagues in adjacent labs to discuss projects … it adds additional strength.”
Two parallel developments in ovarian cancer research – targeting and immunotherapy – are very exciting, according to Dr. Pejovic.
Targeting allows doctors to tailor cancer treatment toward the unique molecular profile of a tumor. That means the very BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations that make a woman more susceptible to ovarian cancer also make the tumor cells more susceptible to targeted treatment. Women with a BRCA1 or 2 mutation have proteins in their cells that do not perform the DNA repair of normal cells, explains Dr. Pejovic: “The proteins just are not working properly,” making women more likely to develop cancer. Yet those same mutated BRCA proteins make it “easier for chemo to kill the cancer cells.”
Immunotherapy is a parallel development in which cancer vaccines can be targeted to specific proteins. “Almost all ovarian cancer cells have a protein, survivin, in great amounts that is very low in normal cells,” Dr. Pejovic says. “The vaccine marks the protein and activates the immune system to attack those cells with the protein.”
OHSU recently launched a clinical trial combining an investigational DPX-Survivac vaccine with low-dose chemotherapy drugs for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer. For information about the trial, contact email@example.com or 503-494-1080.
OVARIAN CANCER EVENTS
WHEN: 6 pm, Thursday, Oct. 6
WHERE: DoubleTree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah St., Portland.
WHAT: Silent auction, dinner and the comedy and magic of Hart Keene.
WHY: It is the only fundraising event hosted by the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon & SW Washington.
TICKETS: $75 per person; $750 for a reserved table for 10. Scholarship tickets are offered to ovarian cancer survivors. Tickets must be purchased in advance at http://ocaosw.schoolauction.net/ovaryfunny2016/
SPONSORS: Gold: Compass Oncology; Walsh Trucking; Silver: Jay and Diane Zidell Charitable Foundation; Oregon Health & Science University; The Zidell Companies; Bronze: Genentech, Inc.; Legacy Health Systems; Myriad Genetics, Inc.; Pacific Seafood
Complementary Medicine Seminar
WHEN: 10 am-noon, Saturday, Nov. 5
WHERE: McMenamin’s Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd Ave., Portland.
WHO: Dr. Cynthia Bye, ND will moderate the seminar and provide an introduction to complementary medicine. Dr. Bye specializes in cancer care. Additional speakers will focus on acupuncture, nutrition and more.
Registration is required, but the event is free. Space is limited. http://ovariancancerosw.org/event-2194664 .
Breast Friends/SHOC Girls’ Nite Out
WHAT: Potluck and Emotional Support for Breast, Ovarian & Other Women’s Cancer
WHEN: 6-8 pm, Third Thursday of each month
WHERE: SHOC Foundation, 18575 Portland Ave., Gladstone
CONTACT: Cindy Guarente 503-721-2624 days, 503-557-3128 eves; firstname.lastname@example.org; OR: Breast Friends Co-Founder Sharon Henifin 503-598-8048 or email@example.com
Other Resources and Events
For more information on other resources and events for ovarian cancer patients, visit shocfoundation.org or ovariancancerosw.org/Pacific-Northwest