Steve Skates, Ph.D. Co-PI: Amy Bregar, M.D.

Associate Professor of Medicine; Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive, Biology

Project Title

Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer via Biomarker Discovery in Uterine Lavage

Named Award

Awesome Games Done Quick


Associate Professor of Medicine; Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive, Biology


Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass.

My “Why”

Skates: Early in my career I worked on one of the first trials in early detection of ovarian cancer. Most ovarian cancers are diagnosed in late stages with poor prognosis. Early detection holds the promise of diagnosing most ovarian cancers in early stages and reducing ovarian cancer mortality.

Bregar: I was drawn to cancer research through my desire to take care of people. As a gynecologic oncologist, I want to make a difference by better understanding, detecting and treating cancers in earlier stages.

My Mission

Skates: My career is focused on finding the best approaches for detecting ovarian cancer and other cancers early. Finding new tests for early detection in apparently healthy people has been far less researched than developing novel therapies, but early detection provides an opportunity to have a major impact on reducing cancer mortality.

Bregar: Outcomes for women with early-stage ovarian cancer are dramatically different compared to women with late-stage disease. The more cases of ovarian cancer that we detect in early stages, the more women’s lives we will save.

Research Overview

In women undergoing surgery for possible ovarian cancer due to a mass in the abdomen, we will wash the womb (uterus) to collect any material shed from ovarian cancer through the fallopian tubes to the womb.

We aim to develop a test to detect any sign of cancer in the material from the wash while minimizing false “detection.” If the new test in uterine lavage is successful, our next study will determine whether the same test in cervical swabs also distinguishes patients with ovarian cancer from all other patients. If this study is positive, we will undertake a screening trial of the test using cervical swabs in apparently healthy women to see if it increases detection of early-stage ovarian cancer. This could lead to an annual screening program testing cervical swabs to detect ovarian cancer earlier.

Why Funding Matters

Skates: Funding from Prevent Cancer Foundation will enable our team to investigate whether a sample close to the disease site, such as a cervical swab, will provide a method for identifying ovarian cancer earlier than it could be detected through a blood test.
Bregar: The generous funding from the Prevent Cancer Foundation will support our ongoing work in early detection. Our goal is to be able to perform a routine screening test, similar to a Pap test, that could detect ovarian cancer early.

My Hope

[Our] hope is that we will be able to develop a test, which could be used alone or in combination with other early detection tests, to diagnose ovarian cancer before it spreads.