Pioneering the Path to Early Ovarian Cancer Detection: Dr. Amy Bregar’s Breakthrough Research

Amy Bregar, MD

Amy Bregar, MD, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and dedicated researcher, is leading groundbreaking efforts to revolutionize early detection strategies for ovarian cancer. In 2021, the FWC awarded Dr. Bregar with the Laura Crandall Brown Foundation Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Research Grant. This funding has served as a catalyst in the development of a novel diagnostic test using uterine lavage, a technique that could offer a more sensitive approach to identifying ovarian cancer at its earliest stages. 

Growing evidence suggests many ovarian cancer cases originate in the fallopian tube. While many current and emerging strategies exist for ovarian cancer detection, the dilution of tumor DNA can make it even more challenging to identify early-stage cancer. Dr. Bregar’s research explores detection techniques that are sensitive enough to identify occurrences that may be undetectable by routine physical exams. 

Dr. Bregar’s research centers on uterine lavage, a technique that involves collecting fluid directly from the uterus. This innovative approach takes advantage of the proximity between the ovary and the uterus, aiming to capture genetic material from where ovarian cancer begins. Unlike blood-based tests that have shown limitations in early detection, uterine lavage can potentially provide a more abundant and earlier signal for ovarian cancer. 

To enhance the sensitivity of the detection method, Dr. Bregar, alongside co-investigators Dr. Abhi Patel and Dr. Steven Skates, is developing a novel way to amplify the signal obtained through uterine lavage by analyzing pre-existing samples with a goal of a stronger signal that could lead to early cancer detection. Over the next several months, the research team plans to complete further analyses that will confirm the presence of stronger ovarian cancer detection signals. If successful, this pioneering approach could pave the way for a routine screening method like a pap smear, offering women a chance for earlier detection, intervention, and improved outcomes in the battle against ovarian cancer. 

“The reason this grant has been so valuable to me is that it has allowed me to protect some of my time, while caring for patients, to help push this important research forward.” Dr. Bregar says. “I feel strongly that research like this is critical when you collaborate between brilliant scientists and clinicians to elucidate the most valuable and useful results. I am deeply grateful for the support from the Foundation for Women’s Cancer.”