CWN-8 North team members with Dr. Kevin Elias

Nobody fights alone.

That’s the message that a group of 25 nurses, patient care assistants and a physician assistant on Connors Center for Women and Newborns (CWN) 8 North want to share with not only their own gynecologic oncology patients, but also with women, families and communities everywhere that have been affected by ovarian cancer.

The CWN 8 team had the phrase printed on T-shirts, along with the words “8 North Strong,” for the Mighty Moose 5K for Ovarian Cancer in Concord, Mass., on Sunday, Sept. 26.

They were among the top fundraisers for the event, raising $6,200 to benefit the research of their colleague, Kevin Elias, MD, director of the Gynecologic Oncology Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“We are proud to help support his efforts in early identification of ovarian cancer through his groundbreaking research, as we see daily how devastating this disease can be,” said Maddie Johnson, BSN, RN, who served as a team captain along with Shannen Corrigan, BSN, RN, and Alyssa Willis, BSN, RN. “We thought this would be a great way to support our ovarian cancer patients while they are in the hospital and after discharge.”

Elias was touched by the support from CWN-8 North. “The Mighty Moose organizers and I were completely overwhelmed by their response,” he said. “CWN-8 works as a true team. It means a tremendous amount to all of us to be uniting in this common cause to improve the lives of women impacted by ovarian cancer.”

Some CWN-8 team members were able to participate in the race, while others working on the unit donned their T-shirts in support of their colleagues, patients and a good cause.

“Our patients’ stories and strength inspire us all, and we hope that our support shows all ovarian cancer patients that their nurses’ care does not stop when they leave the hospital,” said Johnson. “We all have the hopes that, one day, women will not have to face such a horrible diagnosis and that this disease will be detected in earlier stages.”

Elias’ research aims to do exactly that. With the MiDe (micro RNA detection) study, he and Dipanjan Chowdhury, PhD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, are developing a blood test using RNA, a molecule in the bloodstream, to predict the presence of ovarian cancer.

“This simple blood test has the promise to save thousands of lives from this disease,” he said.

Staff on CWN-8 created this T-shirt in support of ovarian cancer patients and research.

Elias launched the study two years ago in collaboration with Chowdhury, who serves as chief of the Division of Radiation and Genome Stability at Dana-Farber.

So far, 200 of approximately 500 participants have been recruited, with a focus on women at high risk of ovarian cancer based on family history and genetic risk factors.

Although the pandemic presented challenges, Elias and Chowdhury were able to develop a mobile collection process with the support of funds from the Mighty Moose organization to improve access for women all over the country. This enables study participants to give blood samples locally and send them to the Brigham for analysis.

They are also working to create a skin patch that will remove the need for a blood test and enable women to complete an at-home screening for ovarian and other cancers.

“All of our early detection efforts require research to reach their full potential,” Elias said. “Philanthropy is vital to this process. Without support from the Mighty Moose, we would not able to do this work.”