OCRF-funded projects to improve early detection, therapies for ovarian cancer

By Hudson Institute communications

Hudson Institute researchers Dr Simon Chu and Dr Andrew Stephens have been awarded grants totalling more than $700,000 over three years by the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF),  to support ongoing work to improve early-stage tumour detection and to develop better therapies for women with ovarian cancer.

Dr Andrew Stephens from the Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers Research Group at Hudson Institute
Dr Andrew Stephens

In addition, the OCRF has renewed its annual support of Hudson Institute’s Ovarian Cancer Biobank node, contributing $50,000 towards this unique and valuable resource for ovarian cancer research.

“The funding supports the collection, storage and cataloguing of ovarian tumour tissue samples,” explained Dr Andrew Stephens, Ovarian Cancer Research Group Head.

Dr Stephen’s Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers Group (Centre for Cancer Research) received two grants. The first is for $268,828 for a novel diagnostic test, ‘active ratio’ test that has been developed to improve detection of early-stage ovarian cancers.

“We will refine and optimise this test, and then apply it women who are considered at ‘high risk’ of developing ovarian tumours to determine how early a diagnosis can potentially be made. We expect this will generate the key evidence needed to progress towards larger clinical trials.”

The second grant of $260,192 will support a related study that has identified a protein on the surface of ovarian cancer cells that is essential for ovarian tumour invasion and spread.

“We will develop a method to specifically target this protein, and generate proof-of-principle exploiting it as a novel therapeutic target to inhibit tumour progression.  We aim to develop this approach as an adjunct to existing treatments, for disease stabilisation in those women diagnosed with advanced cancers,” said Dr Stephens.

Dr Simon Chu
Dr Simon Chu

Dr Simon Chu‘s team in the Centre for Endocrinology and Metabolism received a grant of $197,897 to examine whether a combination therapy will be more efficacious than current frontline therapy, which to date has proven ineffective.

“The combination therapy involves a drug (currently being used in clinical trials) that targets a key cell survival protein, together with drugs against targets that we have identified as also being relevant in the progression of this disease,” Dr Chu said.

“Our initial research focused on ovarian granulosa cell tumours. However, we have found that this approach is also highly applicable for the more common epithelial ovarian cancers.”

A second component to this grant is to explore the function of a mutation that occurs in over 90 per cent of all ovarian granulosa cell tumours.

“The precise role and function of this mutation is unknown. We have unique tools that can help to provide important information as to how this mutation causes cancer, as well as identify potential therapeutic targets that will arise from the analysis.”

“It’s a thrill to receive a three year grant from the OCRF to continue our research in exploring new therapeutic strategies to treat ovarian cancer,” said Dr Chu.

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“Thank you Hudson Institute researchers. Your work brings such hope to all women with ovarian cancer knowing that potentially women in the future won't have to go through what we have!”

Alana Chantry