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Reproductive Cancer

Co-Led by Professor Martin Oehler and Dr Carmela Ricciardelli (School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health)

Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease and the leading cause of death from gynaecological malignancies, affecting approximately one in 90 women in Australia. Over 70% of patients present with advanced disease, and despite improvements in surgery and new developments in chemotherapy, ovarian cancer mortality rates have not changed substantially 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 is researching the mechanisms of ovarian cancer metastasis, resistance to chemotherapy, and the identification of novel biomarkers for early detection. In 2013, their group examined the role of a protein annexin A2 in ovarian cancer metastasis. The group's previous studies identified annexin A2 to be up-regulated in the coculture ovarian cancer and peritoneal cells. Using in vivo models including the chick chorioallantoic membrane assay and a noninvasive whole-body bioluminescent imaging xenograft mouse model, the researchers found that annexin A2 plays a critical role in ovarian cancer metastasis and is a new promising therapeutic target for ovarian cancer.

Importantly, they showed that annexin A2 is increased in the blood of ovarian cancer patients compared to normal controls or patients with benign disease. The group also found that a sugar molecule, hyaluronan plays an important role in ovarian cancer chemotherapy resistance. Hyaluronan synthesis by ovarian cancer cells is increased by chemotherapy treatment and high serum hyaluronan levels are associated with reduced progression-free survival and overall survival. Hyaluronan may also regulate the expression of a family of drug transporters (ABC transporters), which are known to be associated with multidrug resistance. I

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