Friess Foundation creates challenge grant at TGen to conquer ovarian cancer

$100,000 matching fund encourages other donors in quest that could soon lead to new treatments for small cell carcinoma of the ovary

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Oct. 9, 2014 - Lynn and Foster Friess have initiated a new $100,000 challenge grant to support ovarian cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The Friess Family Foundation encourages other donors to help support TGen research into ovarian cancer, the 5th leading cause of cancer death among American women.

With the help of previous Friess Foundation support, an international team - led by TGen's President and Research Director Dr. Jeffery Trent - earlier this year published research in the scientific journal, Nature Genetics, pinpointing the likely cause of a specific type of ovarian cancer - small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type, also known as SCCOHT - which often strikes young women and girls.

"Lynn and I believe TGen is on the verge of conquering this cancer, and we want to encourage donors to help provide the necessary research dollars to get the job done," said Foster Friess, a noted investor and philanthropist.

Using genetic sequencing, TGen found that a particular gene called SMARCA4 was the only recurrently mutated gene in the study's 17 tissue samples, and that the absence of the protein in samples indicates that it likely suppresses tumor growth. As a result, TGen is planning clinical trials for new treatments that could have an immediate impact on patients with SCCOHT.

This type of cancer usually is not diagnosed until it is in its advanced stages. It does not respond to standard chemotherapy, and 65 percent of patients die within 2 years. It has affected girls as young as 14 months, and women as old as 58 years - with a mean age of only 24 years old. In the TGen-led study, the youngest patient was 9 years old.

Much of the work in this study was inspired by the memory of Taryn Ritchey, a 22-year-old TGen patient who in 2007 lost her battle with SCCOHT.

"Taryn would be incredibly excited about the research happening at TGen today, and she would be glad and thankful that other young women like her might now be helped because TGen was able to use her case to find answers," said Taryn's mother, Judy Jost of Cave Creek, Ariz., who also is Foster Friess' executive assistant. "My daughter never gave up, and neither has TGen."

Because SMARCA4 has been previously associated with lung, brain and pancreatic cancer, TGen's discovery could have widespread implications for helping other cancer patients.

The TGen-led study included: Scottsdale Healthcare, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Evergreen Hematology and Oncology, Children's Hospital of Alabama, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, British Columbia Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia, and the University Health Network-Toronto.

"Having seen first hand the devastation caused by ovarian cancer, Lynn and Foster Friess have provided a call to action through their very generous challenge gift to TGen," said Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation. "Their generosity and willingness to engage others to join in this fight will certainly contribute to TGen's future scientific discoveries."

For more information about TGen's research into SCCO, or to participate in a future study, visit: www.tgen.org/scco.

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About TGen
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting cutting-edge genomic research to accelerate breakthroughs in healthcare. TGen is focused on helping patients with cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit).

TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

Press Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
[email protected]


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