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Ovarian cancer breakthrough discovered by Phoenix scientists

"I think the best would be to say she was very spunky," says mother Judy Jost.

In July of 2006, doctors delivered to Ritchey and her mother a stinging diagnosis. A rare and aggressive form of Ovarian cancer had stricken her.

"It was like getting hit by a train or something. It was just horrible," said Jost.

"Even if we catch this early in these young women, it's usually a death sentence," said TGen President Doctor Jeffery Trent who was among the researchers on the study team.

TGen is a local nonprofit that works to both unlock the mysteries of DNA and develop cures for rare diseases.

Ritchey was one of TGen's patients after her diagnosis of small cell ovarian cancer.
During one of her treatments she was hospitalized with an elevated heart rate.

"Eight days later we lost Taryn. We had no idea. It just happened so fast," said Jost.

Ritchey's resiliency and fighting spirit meant she knew there was a legacy she could leave behind.

"If anything ever happens to me mom," Jost said recounting a conversation with her daughter, "I want to give my body to science. I want to help other young women so they don't have to go through what I went through,"

The blood extracted from Taryn's tumor was among the samples studied leading to this breakthrough.

Microbiologists uncovered the gene defect that causes this rare ovarian cancer and can now quickly move ahead with trying to find drugs that can possibly treat it.

"Its extremely exciting her legacy will continue on because of what she went through," said Jost.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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