Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease and the leading cause of death from gynaecological malignancies. It affects approximately 1 in 90 women in Australia and over 70% of patients present with advanced disease. Despite improvements in surgery and new developments in chemotherapy, ovarian cancer mortality rates have not changed dramatically over the last decade. Significant improvement in ovarian cancer survival will require the development of novel ovarian cancer biomarkers for early detection and more effective molecularly targeted therapeutics.
The Reproductive Cancer Group seeks to understand the mechanisms involved in ovarian cancer spread, resistance to chemotherapy and the identification of novel biomarkers for detection.
In 2014 our research focused on further understanding the role of the sugar molecule, hyaluronan (HA) in chemo-resistance. We characterised the function and expression of an enzyme transketolase (TKT) involved in sugar metabolism in ovarian cancer cells. Additionally, we established an ex vivo tissue explant model to assess drug responses in human ovarian cancer tissues.
This year we will determine whether a protein regulated by ovarian cancer-peritoneal interactions can be used as a diagnostic marker for serous ovarian cancer in independent cohorts. We will also assess whether hyaluronan inhibitors are effective at reversing chemo-resistance using established ovarian cancer cell lines and primary cells derived from ovarian cancer patients.