Genomics saves West Vancouver woman’s life after facing aggressive ovarian cancer

Personalized onco-genomics program is BC Cancer’s flagship study in precision medicine

Two and a half years after beginning her journey on the personalized onco-genomics (POG) program and starting her tailored medication, Candy Woodward has been cancer-free.

Every three and a half hours, another woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Canada. In B.C, more than 300 women will be diagnosed with a form of ovarian cancer this year.

In the winter of 2014, this statistic included West Vancouver’s Candy Woodworth.

At her weekly Pilates class, Candy noticed she felt uncomfortable when doing a routine exercise. She went back to the class a week later, and noticed the same pain in her stomach and immediately made an appointment with her family doctor, who sent her for an urgent ultrasound.

“I hardly had my coat off when the phone rang and my doctor told me I had to come back immediately,” Candy says. “My husband and I both went back, and it was then we found out I had ovarian cancer.”

In March of 2015, Candy’s treatment plan began with surgery, where her tumour was removed, followed by 18 rounds of chemotherapy.

A year later, at one of Candy’s routine check-ups, her team discovered her cancer had returned, this time in her colon.

“My feelings at that point in time were still very positive – just get the job done, and that’s exactly how my team at BC Cancer approached it,” says Candy. She went in for surgery a second time.

Six months later, Candy’s cancer returned again, in the exact same place in her colon. “It was very unusual for it to return to the exact same place,” says Candy.

She underwent her third surgery.

With her cancer at an aggressive state, Candy was put forward as a prime candidate for an innovative, personalized cancer program at BC Cancer. She was put in touch with Dr. Anna Tinker, Provincial Gyne Oncology Tumour Group Chair and medical oncologist at BC Cancer.

The personalized onco-genomics (POG) program is BC Cancer’s flagship study in precision medicine and the first program of its kind to use whole genome analysis to inform individual treatment planning for patients.

Through this program, Dr. Tinker and team found that Candy’s tumour had a mutant BRCA gene, even though Candy herself did not carry the gene, and was able to match the tumour mutation to a clinical trial drug.

It’s been two and a half years and Candy has been cancer-free since she began her journey on the POG program and started her tailored medication.

“The POG program and the fact they found a drug for me has given me my life back,” says Candy. “It means everything – I now get the opportunity to be with my family and watch my grandchildren grow.”

You can help support the life-saving Personalized Onco-genomics program at BC Cancer by visiting: bccancerfoundation.com/POG

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