As reported by News Channel 8, WTNH, May 7, 2006.

Researchers Working on Possible Ovarian Cancer Vaccine

By Jocelyn Maminta

More people these days are surviving devastating illnesses thanks to modern science.

Research at UConn's Health Center is impacting one of the deadliest forms of cancer among women.

Ethelyn says, "The symptoms were so vague. I would never have gone to the doctor for it."

Dr. Carolyn Runowicz says, "When I was a medical student, it was a death sentence."

Now more women like Ethelyn Newsome are living with ovarian cancer.

Diagnosed 8 years ago, Ethelyn is in for a yearly check-up at the NEAG Comprehensive Cancer Center at UConn Health Center.

"I was very concerned that it would shorten my life span considerably."

So after her rare and aggressive form of cancer was completely removed, she sought a second opinion.

"I took not only the copies of all the test reports, and other results, surgical results but I also took a slide of my tumor to Dr. Runowicz," says Ethelyn.

Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, a gynecological oncologist at UConn, prescribed a powerful combination of chemo and another surgery.

Today Ethelyn remains in remission. She is one of the 80 percent of patients in remission.

"Now today you can live with ovarian cancer as a chronic disease and we are seeing an improvement in the 5 and ten year survival rates."

Still there are major concerns. 20 percent of women diagnosed are difficult to treat because they do not go into remission. Half of those in remission will likely have a relapse.

Here at UConn a clinical trial is underway with researchers working to come up with a vaccine to fight ovarian cancer.

Dr. Zihai Li, ovarian cancer researcher, says, "This particular vaccine is designed to prevent relapse of ovarian cancer."

Dr. Zihai Li is using the body's immune system to fight against infection. Here's how it's done.

Women recently diagnosed undergo surgery to remove the tumor and a piece of it is sent to the laboratory where a vaccine unique to the tumor is developed.

"What we are trying to do is boost the immune function, to use the immune function, to the advantage of the patient .. to effectively treat cancer."

So far it appears promising, but time and close monitoring are needed for conclusive results.

Meantime doctors urge patients to be proactive like Ethelyn Newsome.

Also key to Ethelyn's remission is early detection, but she is not the norm.

Doctors say by the time most women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer it is already at a late stage.

There are a number of ovarian cancer trials at UConn, including trials looking into improving the screening process.