News Release

September 8, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Experimental Vaccine Shows Promise for High Risk Ovarian Cancer Patients

September Is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center have found promising results using a heat shock protein vaccine for high risk ovarian cancer patients. This is the first clinical trial testing an HSP-based vaccine against ovarian cancer. The aim of the trial was to test whether or not the vaccine could boost a woman’s own natural immune response to her tumor, as well as to measure just how strong a response could be achieved

“Five-year survival rates for late stage ovarian cancer is less than 30 percent, despite surgery and chemotherapy, due largely to recurrence of the disease,” said John Nash, M.D., gynecologic oncologist with The Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UConn Health Center. “During preclinical research, the HSP vaccine has shown tumor protective T-cell immunity, so we decided to test it further,” added Dr. Nash.

The study involved patients with stage III or IV ovarian cancers who had completed standard chemotherapy treatments with no signs of the disease progressing. Researchers found the patients tolerated the vaccine very well and it prompted a measurable immune response.

“Ultimately, it is hoped the boost from the vaccine will result in the prevention or delay of recurrence of the disease,” said Dr. Nash. “While more research needs to be done concerning the clinical efficacy of this vaccine, these preliminary results are encouraging.”

Ovarian cancer is the most serious of the gynecologic malignancies, causing more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age, especially around the time of menopause. A family history of ovarian cancer is one of the most important risk factors. Infertility and not bearing children are also risk factors.

While ovarian cancer is the most deadly, uterine cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer. Most uterine cancers begin in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) after menopause, when a woman’s menstrual cycle ends and the endometrium flattens out. Risk factors include obesity, hypertension, diabetes and late menopause.

Cervical cancer is the only gynecologic cancer that can be prevented by regular cervical cancer screening. The Pap test reliably detects early abnormal cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer and has dramatically increased cure rates. Persistent human papilloma virus (HPV) infection has been shown to be the cause of virtually all cervical cancers, though other risk factors include smoking, HIV infection and early age of first intercourse.

“Every hour, approximately 10 women will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer. We believe it is important to tell women that they can prevent these cancers from affecting their lives by taking simple personal action, such as knowing your risk factors and getting regular exams,” said Dr. Nash.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

Note: News professionals are invited to visit the UConn Health Today news page ( for regularly updated news and feature stories, photos and media stories. News releases are archived at UConn Health news and information is also available on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.