Prof. Jim Petrik keeps a laser-like focus on the science of ovarian cancer. But his knowledge of what he calls an “insidious disease” has prompted the Ontario Veterinary College researcher to extend his efforts beyond the lab.
Petrik and his lab members in the Department of Biomedical Sciences have partnered with local cancer survivor Frances Vanover to organize Guelph’s inaugural Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope to be held Sunday, Sept. 11 at the University of Guelph Arboretum.
After reading in 2013 about an ovarian cancer support group started by Vanover, he began talking with her about organizing a Guelph walk.
“I really enjoy interacting with survivors and people in the community that have been touched by this disease, and Frances is a fantastic woman,” Petrik said. “She is an eight-year survivor of ovarian cancer, which is a tremendous outcome.”
He studies ways to improve treatment of advanced-stage ovarian cancer by remodelling dysfunctional blood vessels in tumours. This improves drug delivery and makes therapies more effective, he said.
He says detecting the disease early is the “Holy Grail.” Ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed late, and outcomes are often tragic.
“There is no blood test or exam for it. Even ultrasounds and annual pap smear tests won’t reveal it. There’s nothing really definitive that says, ‘Hey, there might be something wrong and I need to get checked out.’”
Women ultimately experience nausea and bloating from fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
The work is emotional for Petrik but also motivating.
“You meet these individuals who are so consumed by this disease. It really makes the research that we’re doing relevant and meaningful.
“Aside from just doing the bench work and the science, you can see how discoveries can have a positive impact, so that’s what we’re working toward.”
The first Guelph edition of the walk will go rain or shine. Registration begins at 9 a.m. with the two-kilometre walk at 10:30 a.m.
Visit http://www.ovariancanada.org/ for more information.