Professor Martin Oehler
Co-Head, Reproductive Cancer Group (School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health)
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynaecological malignancies, affecting approximately 1 in 90 women in Australia. Over 70% of affected patients present with advanced disease. Despite improvements in surgical and chemotherapeutic treatment options, ovarian cancer mortality rates have not changed dramatically over the last decade. Improving ovarian cancer survival will require the development of novel ovarian cancer biomarkers for early detection and more effective targeted molecular therapeutics.
The Reproductive Cancer Group is focused on conducting research to improve understanding of the mechanisms of ovarian cancer spread, resistance to chemotherapy and the identification of novel biomarkers for its detection. Previous studies identified the protein annexin A2 to be up-regulated in the conditioned media of co-cultured ovarian cancer and peritoneal cells, suggesting it may play a role in disease progression. New work conducted in 2012 found annexin A2 to be highly expressed in up to 90% of serious ovarian cancers. Suppression of annexin A2 production was found to block key in vitro indicators of ovarian cancer metastatic capacity, such as cancer cell motility, peritoneal cell adhesion, and invasion. Subsequently, in vivo models were developed to assess the role of annexin A2 in cancer invasion and metastasis. These models included the chick chorioallantoic membrane assay and a non-invasive wholebody bioluminescent imaging xenograft mouse model.
Overall, the Group's 2012 research activities suggest that annexin A2 may play a critical role in ovarian cancer metastasis. Further work will address whether this molecule may be a new therapeutic target for treating ovarian cancer. This work was funded by Cancer Council SA and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).