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Ovarian Cancer Translational Center of Excellence

There are no biases regarding who can get ovarian cancer. It hits all races, socioeconomic classes, and geographical regions.

Worldwide about 250,000 women are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is often referred to as a silent disease because most women do not experience symptoms until the cancer is widespread. This makes it more difficult to detect and cure. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women and accounts for more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer. There is a pressing need for more effective therapies and earlier detection methods.

The Ovarian Cancer Translational Center for Excellence (TCE) at Penn offers hope in the fight against this deadly disease.

Revolutionizing Ovarian Cancer Research

A gloved hand fills a test tube in the Simpkins LabThe Ovarian Cancer TCE is transforming ovarian cancer research by eliminating the separation that sometimes occurs between research and patient care. It links the scientists who develop therapies in the lab with patient care we provide in the clinic and hospital. The TCE bridge will make it easier than ever before, to rapidly translate new laboratory findings into clinical practice and allow us to provide patients with new therapeutic options.

The Ovarian Cancer TCE provides support for the following four initiatives:

Expanding Tumor Banking

One cornerstone of the TCE is the collection of living tumor tissue from patients cared for by gynecologic oncologists across the health system. Tumor samples are currently being collected near the time of initial diagnosis and cancer recurrence at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital and Chester County Hospital. The samples become part of the Ovarian Cancer Research Center (OCRC) Tumor Biotrust and are used to study how ovarian cancer evolves over time with the goal of discovering more effective treatment options.

Mouse ‘Avatar’ Models for Drug Development

Once the tissues are collected, they are used to develop patient-derived tumor xenografts (PDX), by transplanting and growing a portion of the patient’s tumor in a mouse. The PDX models can be used to test novel combination therapies for ovarian cancer. The goal is to use these tools to move forward new treatment options identified in the lab into clinical trials for ovarian cancer patients.

A Lasting Gift

The Penn Legacy Tissue Program the first of its kind at Penn, allows women with ovarian cancer to donate their tumor tissue at the time of death to aid in research that can potentially help women who develop ovarian cancer in the future. You can learn more about the Penn Legacy Tissue Program here.

Developing Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trials

The fourth cornerstone of the TCE is to develop clinical trials evaluating new therapies to treat ovarian cancer that directly result from scientific discoveries by Penn OCRC researchers. These trials can provide patients the opportunity to receive investigational drugs not yet available in the clinic.

Bringing Together Experts from Diverse Fields

Led by Ronny Drapkin, MD, PhD, and Fiona Simpkins, MD, the Ovarian Cancer TCE supports a multidisciplinary team that takes advantage of shared resources available through the Abramson Cancer Center and brings together expert investigators from:

Ovarian Cancer TCE Core Team

Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials

View currently available ovarian cancer clinical trials.

Giving Opportunities

Gifts to the Penn Ovarian Cancer Research Center support its mission of maintaining excellence in patient care, education and research.  For more information or to make a gift, please fill out the online form or contact Maddie Dickinson at

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