Meet the scientists at the forefront of ovarian cancer research

Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. It is often asymptomatic and goes undetected until the advanced stages, when the cancer is widespread. Only a handful of new treatment options have emerged in the past 30 years and these typically become ineffective as the cancer develops resistance to chemotherapy. Our research teams tackle ovarian cancer from different angles to make a difference to women’s lives.

New treatment options

Paul Hertzhog Ovarian Cancer Researcher at Hudson Institute
Professor Paul Hertzhog, Associate Director

In 2004, Professor Paul Hertzog’s laboratory discovered interferon epsilon in the female reproductive tract. An interferon is a type of protein called a cytokine, which regulates the immune system. The team showed that interferon epsilon can activate immune cells to provide a protective inflammatory response to ovarian cancer in preclinical models.

This new treatment could be groundbreaking for women in the late stages of ovarian cancer who have developed chemotherapy resistance.” – Prof Paul Hertzog, Associate Director Hudson Institute

These promising findings have led to a multi-million-dollar investment by international venture capital fund Morningside Ventures, resulting in the spin-out company, Epsila Bio, Inc.

What we are working on

  • Developing a new treatment for metastatic ovarian cancer
  • Progressing treatment to clinical trials
  • Understanding the role of interferon epsilon in other conditions like endometriosis

Early detection

Dr Maree Bilandzic, Senior Postdoctoral Scientist

Around 4000 women live with ovarian cancer in Australia, with less than half surviving longer than five years after diagnosis.

The disease has few early symptoms, and even with treatment, most patients will relapse within a short space of time.

Headed by Dr Andrew Stephens, the Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers group is actively developing and trialling new cancer therapies and detection tests with the support of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF), to help create a future free from the spectre of this disease.

What we are working on

  • Development and preclinical testing of a new cancer drug
  • Creation of early detection tests
  • Precision medicine approaches to rapidly personalise therapy

The fact is that no early detection test for ovarian cancer exists – it’s a simple necessity we owe women.” – Dr Maree Bilandzic, Senior Postdoctoral Researcher

Rare ovarian cancer

Approximately five per cent of ovarian cancer sufferers have a subset of the disease known as granulosa cell tumours (GCTs), which can develop at any age, even in children. The condition has a high rate of late recurrence, meaning even if surgery is effective, women live for years in constant fear that their cancer might return.

Simon Chu Ovarian Cancer Researcher at Hudson Institute
Dr Simon Chu, Researcher Group Head

To know that we can contribute to bringing hope to these women makes my line of work very rewarding. – Dr Simon Chu, Research Group Head

Dr Simon Chu’s Hormone Cancer Therapeutics group is striving to bring hope for this somewhat neglected disease – through better diagnosis, early detection and more targeted treatment. A $10,000 donation from Rare Ovarian Cancer Incorporated enabled the group to kickstart a world-first study into juvenile GCTs.

What we are working on

  • Establishing a cost-effective, highly specific diagnostic test
  • Personalised treatments based on GCT molecular processes
  • Identifying the genetic mutations causing the disease

From the issue…