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Jayanthi Lea, M.D. Answers Questions On Gynecologic Cancers

Jayanthi Lea, M.D. Answers Questions On: Gynecologic Cancers

If I’m diagnosed with ovarian cancer, is minimally invasive surgery effective in treating/removing the cancer?

Yes. If the cancerous cells have not spread beyond the ovaries, we may recommend a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. We’ve found this very effective in early stages of ovarian cancer.

What if you find more advanced cancer, stage 3 or higher ovarian cancer – is there a way to accurately determine how much it has spread?

There are a number of options to evaluate and stage ovarian cancer. For example, protein tumor markers on the surface of the ovaries are one method (CA-125 and CA 15-3 protein markers) that can help us evaluate the progression of late-stage ovarian cancer. With an effective evaluation, our team can help patients determine the best course of action for their disease.

Is UT Southwestern Medical Center involved with research regarding ovarian, uterine, cervical, and other types of gynecologic cancers on the national level?

Yes. UT Southwestern participates in numerous multi-institutional studies. We’re involved in international collaborative efforts, as part of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group, and participate in studies that are changing the way cancer is evaluated and treated. At UT Southwestern, I’m personally involved with a number of studies – including those involving late-stage gynecologic cancer and biologic agents that may result in a cancer vaccine.

How close are we to a cancer “vaccine” discovery?

We’re still determining which biologic agents can be used to boost the body’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells. This includes determining how to effectively target cancer cells, as well as how to target cells before they become cancer. For example, one interesting area of research involves specific proteins, which can boost the immune system and destroy precancerous cells, as well as the surface of cancer cells.

Are PARP inhibitors effective in treating gynecologic cancers?

There are a number of different factors to determine if this therapy will be effective. We work with the individual patient – and the specifics of her cancer diagnosis – to determine which treatment options will result in the best outcomes for her.

At UT Southwestern, our patients have access to the latest treatments available, including clinical trials. PARP inhibitors are a new class of drug. A cell’s PARP (poly-ADP-ribose-polymerase) enzymes are responsible for repairing its DNA. The new drugs stop the cancer cells from repairing themselves, which causes them to die. We’re investigating them as a primary treatment, as well as a method of boosting the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

Why is sentinel lymph node mapping important in understanding options related to gynecologic cancers?

We can reduce/eliminate the need to remove all the lymph nodes in surgically removing the cancer. This means fewer complications, and possibly less recovery time for the patient. This is particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of lymphedema. This condition can prevent lymphatic fluids from draining, thereby increasing the long-term likelihood of swelling in the groin and lower extremities, as well as increase the risk of infections.