Skip to main content

Dr. Huntsman and the OVCARE team make extraordinary progress in gynecologic cancer research

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month; a time to reflect on the research breakthroughs in ovarian and related gynecologic cancers that are helping to improve lives in B.C. and beyond.
Use this image as both the current Page Image and for News listings

​For more than 20 years, OVCARE, BC Cancer's multidisciplinary gynecologic cancer research team led by Dr. David Huntsman, OVCARE have achieved remarkable progress in their mission to combat gynecologic cancers. Their success is credited to a team approach which has allowed OVCARE to make ground breaking discoveries; laying the foundation for progressive prevention strategies, precision diagnostic tools, and tailored treatment plans.

Ovarian Cancer

Under Dr. Huntsman's leadership, one of the team's earliest discoveries was that ovarian cancer is not a single disease but multiple, distinct subtypes. This new understanding created a blueprint for how other gynecological cancers are now studied and treated. The team also quickly realized that studying ovarian cancers in isolation would not provide a comprehensive understanding of the disease. 

Endometrial Cancer

As part of this work, OVCARE researchers Dr. Jessica McAlpine and Dr. Aline Talhouk, embarked on a new avenue of research to study endometrial cancer, paving the way for a more holistic approach to the study of gynecologic cancers by taking into account the interconnected nature of these organs and their diseases.

"By working as a team, we've been able to revolutionize the diagnosis and management of endometrial cancer, developing a simple diagnostic tool for effectively classifying these cancers to guide their treatment" says Dr. Huntsman, distinguished scientist and co-founder and director of OVCARE. "This breakthrough has paved the way for personalized and tailored care that caters to the unique needs of each patient based on the biology of their cancer. It is now considered standard of care for all newly diagnosed endometrial cancer patients in the province."

With OVCARE's Dr. Ali Bashashati, the team is working on the application of artificial intelligence-based tissue analysis to discover novel biological information and biomarkers that can be used to help determine the most appropriate course of treatment for patients.

Vulvar Cancer

Building upon their successes in ovarian and endometrial cancer research, the OVCARE team ventured into the study of vulvar cancer, a rare cancer predominantly affecting older women. Drs. Lien Hoang and Amy Jamieson determined that vulvar cancer encompasses three distinct subtypes, each with unique clinical and biological characteristics. This finding has inspired further research to develop targeted care plans that improve outcomes and explore more impactful treatments for this rare cancer, including a first-of-its-kind clinical trial, based on the molecular classification of the disease to triage care.


Dr. Dianne Miller's work on opportunistic salpingectomy, the removal of the fallopian tubes for the primary prevention of ovarian cancer in a woman already undergoing pelvic surgery for another indication, has been published and proven as an effective strategy. The procedure has since been adopted and recommended by many professional gynecological societies around the world. Dr. Gillian Hanley, health services researcher within OVCARE and senior author of the study, found no serious ovarian cancers in the group of patients who underwent the procedure. With a five-year survival rate of less than 50 per cent, prevention is a key step that will save lives and these findings strengthen the evidence for opportunistic salpingectomy as an effective prevention strategy. To expand its global impact and the potential to prevent other forms of the disease, Dr. Huntsman and Dr. Hanley have created the Ovarian Cancer Observatory, a hub for international collaboration, positioning British Columbia as a global leader in ovarian cancer research.

This year Dr. David Huntsman received the tenth annual Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Prize in Cancer Research for his outstanding accomplishments and influence in advancing the global standards for subtype-specific approaches to gynecologic cancer research and transforming the way several oncological diseases are diagnosed and managed. He is recognized for his consistent high-quality research and the direct clinical relevance of his work, including new cancer diagnostics and contributions to an ovarian cancer prevention strategy which has been adopted worldwide.

As he reflects on his achievements and look towards the future, Dr. Huntsman and team remain committed to their goal of eliminating cervical cancer, ensuring all women across B.C. can benefit from their work and expanding their efforts further into clinical trials and survivorship research. 

SOURCE: Dr. Huntsman and the OVCARE team make extraordinary progress in gynecologic cancer research ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Cancer. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2024 Provincial Health Services Authority