A team of researchers from TGen discovered the cause of a specific type of an ovarian cancer, thanks to the help of a 22-year-old Cave Creek woman.
Taryn Ritchey was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer in 2006.
“There wasn’t a treatment protocol so we treated her on case studies,” said her mother Judy Jost.
Taryn beat the cancer once, but within a month it was back. Taryn died five months later.
Judy says her daughter told her one day, “If anything happens to me, I want to donate my body to science so no other young woman has to go through what I've gone through.
Taryn’s mom made sure her daughter’s wish came true. After she died, researchers at TGen drew blood from Taryn’s tumor. Almost seven years later, doctors found the cause.
The breakthrough revealed a "genetic superhighway" mutation in a gene found in the overwhelming majority of patients with small cell carcinoma of the ovary, also known as SCCOHT.
"Many genetic anomalies can be like a one-lane road to cancer; difficult to negotiate. But these findings indicate a genetic superhighway that leads right to this highly aggressive disease," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent.
Dr. Trent also says this breakthrough could have implications for more common diseases.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg kind of thing,” said Dr. Trent. “It will be very important for many different kind of cancers.”