/////UAMS Researcher Wins International Award for Ovarian Cancer Research
UAMS Researcher Wins International Award for Ovarian Cancer Research 2018-01-05T09:11:34+00:00

JULY 9, 2004 | Tim O’Brien wears several hats … author, editor, director, professor … but it’s as a researcher that he won a lifetime achievement award.

O’Brien, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine and director of UAMS Arkansas BioVentures, recently won the coveted Abbott Award in recognition of a lifetime of work in the area of ovarian cancer research.

The international award is presented annually to researchers who have made major contributions in the field of basic or clinical oncology. O’Brien recently received the award at the 32nd annual meeting of the International Society for Oncodevelopmental Biology and Medicine (ISOBM) in Helsinki, Finland, on June 22.

“I feel very humbled by the award,” said O’Brien, “but I would like to believe that it translates into more important improvements for women’s health and well-being and more ways to treat women with cancer.”

O’Brien said he doesn’t deserve all the credit for the award. “No one person can do this,” he said. “There are a large number of contributors who have helped what has happened with ovarian cancer research in the last 30 years. Many of them are my colleagues and research group here at UAMS, and I’ve also collaborated with groups in Japan, Sweden and Norway.”

O’Brien began studying women’s cancers in the 1960s and began focusing on ovarian cancer in the 1970s at the University of Southern California. In 1984, O’Brien joined UAMS and in 1997 founded UAMS Arkansas BioVentures, a biotechnology business accelerator that converts UAMS research into jobs for Arkansans.

O’Brien and his team are now researching ways to better detect ovarian cancer in its earliest stages. “Ovarian cancer is a major killer of women, and it’s clear that one of the issues surrounding ovarian cancer is diagnosis,” he said. “At this time, we diagnose women at Stage 3 of the cancer, when it has already spread. This happens in 75 percent of the cases. What we would like to do is move the diagnosis from Stages 3 and 4 to Stages 1 and 2. Eventually, we hope to cure women by early diagnosis.”

He explained that ovarian cancer is hard to diagnose because it grows without any significant symptoms, which is why it’s often referred to as the “silent killer.”

One of O’Brien’s most notable accomplishments in ovarian cancer research is his discovery that a gene known as CA125 can identify the presence of ovarian cancer cells in women. His work was patented – the first patent ever for UAMS – and was licensed to a large biotechnology company in Pennsylvania. The company marketed a CA125 diagnostic kit, which is now the most commonly used test for ovarian cancer around the world.

Two years ago, O’Brien and his team successfully cloned the complex CA125 gene. “This allows us to look at this molecule in a different way so that we can continue to improve ways of testing for ovarian cancer,” O’Brien said.

“As the population grows older in the United States, testing for ovarian cancer will become more important,” he said. O’Brien said approximately one in 17 women in Arkansas will have ovarian cancer.

O’Brien said he hopes that eventually doctors and gynecologists will use the CA125 diagnostic kit to test for ovarian cancer as routinely as they perform pap smears. “Ultimately, we hope that women can use home tests for ovarian cancer,” he said.

O’Brien is the author of more than 70 peer reviewed articles and book chapters and is the associate editor of the journal, Tumor Biology. He is on the advisory board for the Institute of Food Science and Engineering, where he provides direction for multidisciplinary research in biotechnology and agricultural medicine; a board member of Safe Foods Corporation; and founder of the Arkansas Biotechnology Association.

Links on this page:

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology: http:www.uams.edu/obgyn/
UAMS Arkansas BioVentures: http://www.uamsbiotech.com/default.asp

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