Fine wine and gourmet food weren’t the only appeals on the menu at the annual fundraising dinner for the Ovarian Cancer Institute last month. Its latest research was too.
An Evening at Bacchanalia on Sept. 23 raised $173,000 for the latest OCI research, including the validation of an early detection blood test for ovarian cancer and other cutting-edge studies.
They include better predicting the best treatment for a particular cancer, and an alternative to chemotherapy that would eradicate cancer in a particular spot without affecting the rest of the body.
The OCI fundraiser filled Bacchanalia with 100 people, raising more than in past years, when the average was $125,000. This year’s event raised half of what is needed for validation of the ovarian cancer blood test, which costs $300,000, said OCI Executive Director Kathryn Harper.
She attributed the increase to fund-raising at the event, which spotlighted the latest research and made a pitch to complete validation for the ovarian cancer test, so it can be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
There is currently no accurate diagnostic test for early-stage ovarian cancer. “This dreaded disease is diagnosed almost always in an advanced stage, requiring barbaric surgery and multiple regimens of toxic chemotherapy,” said Dr. Benedict Benigno, who founded OCI 19 years ago and serves as its CEO.”I cannot tell you how excited I am to imagine this test becoming a part of every woman’s annual visit to her physician, along with the time-honored pap smear!”
OCI previously proved the test with a 100 percent level of accuracy using 50 samples of stage one ovarian cancer, which is difficult to find. But it wasn’t enough for the FDA, Harper said. So OCI is testing more samples. So far it has diagnosed 400 out of 1,000 samples needed and hopes to complete validation by the end of the year, she said.
The Georgia Research Alliance recently awarded OCI $60,000 to continue with the chemotherapy research: delivering treatment directly to the nucleus of the cancer cell without damaging normal cells, and determining the best treatment for each cancer.
“At the present time, chemotherapy is infused into a vein and it travels to all tissues in the body with the same dose absorption, and does not discriminate between cancer cells and normal cells,” Benigno wrote in a letter to donors last week.
Having a precise treatment for cancer “allows us to discard time-honored treatments which we know will not work in a predictable percentage of patients. Our preliminary results show an incredible 83 percent accuracy, far better than the results currently obtained from commercially available companies,” he said.
The private dinner last month featured elite wine pairings with bottles donated by private collector Bill Graves; a private cellar wine auction; and an award-winning meal prepared by chef Anne Quatrano.