Ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal female cancers with 239,000 new cases worldwide in 2012. It is estimated that more than 1,600 Australian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018.
Our work into Ovarian Cancer not only looks at causes and cures for ovarian cancers but also ways of improving the lives of women living with cancer. Below are just some of our priority research projects into ovarian cancer.
Investigators from WIRF, the WA Gynaecological Cancer Service and Genetic Services WA, are delighted to be involved in TRACEBACK. This pioneering Initiative will hopefully benefit many families of ovarian cancer patients treated in Perth over the past several years as well as countless others across the country.
TRACEBACK will focus on women diagnosed with ovariancancer between 2001 and 2016 who missed the opportunity to be tested for the #BRCA gene mutation. Fully implemented, this groundbreaking project could prevent up to 800 cases of ovarian cancer.
Read the feature article in The West Australian.
BLOOD BASED BIOMARKERS TO PREDICT RECURRENCE IN OVARIAN CANCER
Ovarian cancer is one of the most lethal female cancers with 239,000 new cases worldwide in 2012. It is estimated that more than 1600 Australian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018.
The Blood Based Biomarkers to Predict Recurrence in Ovarian Cancer Project will help us to improve outcomes for the hundreds of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia every year and the hundreds of thousands of women worldwide who are living with the disease.
In the majority of patients, the disease has already spread at the time of diagnosis and despite treatment including surgery and chemotherapy, most women will relapse and ultimately die of their disease. More than half (57%) of women with ovarian cancer are no longer living 5 years after their diagnosis and we need to change this.
Recent evidence suggests that ovarian cancer survival is closely related to our immune systems. The immune system can attack malignant cells that it recognizes as ‘foreign’ (in the same way as it protects us from bacterial infections) and there is a clear relationship between a declining anti-tumour immune response and ovarian cancer recurrence. However, a lack of understanding of how the immune system mediates these processes has limited the development of effective ovarian cancer therapies.
The ‘Blood Based Biomarkers to Predict Recurrence in Ovarian Cancer Project’ is innovative due to a current lack of tests or ‘markers’ to predict ovarian cancer recurrence. Given the key role of the immune system in ovarian cancer, identification of immune-related markers that predict clinical outcomes and reveal new immunotherapeutic approaches could promote long-term remission in these patients. Our study will focus on proteins called ‘tumour-antigen associated autoantibodies’ (TAAbs) and ‘cytokines’ that are made by our immune systems to fight ovarian cancer. Blood-based TAAbs and cytokines are associated with disease recurrence. They may be useful tests for understanding how women with ovarian cancer respond to chemotherapy and for developing new treatments.
Most studies to date have investigated the role of TAAbs in early detection of ovarian cancer but their role in predicting relapse has not previously been investigated. Our preliminary studies have identified a TAAb called ‘p53 TAAb’ using a novel technology called a high-throughput protein microarray. We will use this high-throughput technique to identify a panel of TAAbs and cytokines to predict disease recurrence. Our aim is to identify alterations in TAAbs and cytokines from blood samples of patients with matched primary and recurrent ovarian cancers. Our approach of analyzing matched specimens is unique and will minimize inter-patient variation, thus isolating the specific patterns attributable to tumour recurrence. These specimens will be obtained from the Western Australia Gynaecologic Oncology Biobank.
The Foundation is now seeking support for its researchers to conduct a preliminary study to generate a list of TAAbs and cytokines associated with ovarian cancer recurrence. View the support opportunity here.
The results of the initial studies may lead to improved prediction of relapse in those women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The results may lead to specific ovarian cancer treatments called monoclonal antibodies, which mimic the immune system’s own TAAbs, and to the development of vaccine therapies for ovarian cancer. This has the potential to change practice and to improve outcomes for the hundreds of thousands of women worldwide that are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year.
The Project is led by scientist Dr Yu Yu, a Senior Research Fellow at Curtin University in Perth, and Drs. Paul Cohen and Tarek Meniawy, clinician researchers at the WA Gynaecological Cancer Service and the University of Western Australia.
STATS AND FACTS
- Over 1600 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in Australia.
- It is the leading cause of gynaecologic cancer-related deaths in Australia, accounting for 4.8% of all cancer deaths in women
- The median age for patients with ovarian cancer is 60 years but it can occur at any age
- The average lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is about 1 in 75
- The majority of cases are sporadic with inherited forms of malignancy occurring in about 15% of cases
- Women with inherited gene faults have a much higher lifetime ovarian cancer risk of up to 50%
- Over two-thirds of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed when the disease has already spread and is incurable
- There are currently no effective screening tests for ovarian cancer
- 57% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will not be living 5 years after their diagnosis.