Collaboration impacts ovarian cancer research

Research reveals new insights into the genetic mechanisms ovarian cancer employs to evade chemotherapy drugs.

This article originally appeared in the Newsroom on 29 May. View the original here.

Research findings published recently in Nature and revealing new insights into the genetic mechanisms ovarian cancer employs to evade chemotherapy drugs, have opened up the potential for the development of new treatments for women with high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HSC).

Researchers and clinicians now have a better understanding of why HSC so often returns after chemotherapy treatment. This knowledge can now be used to inform the development of new treatments aimed at improving the survival rates of women with this cancer, which accounts for 70 per cent of all ovarian cancers, and 60 per cent of ovarian cancer-related deaths, claiming approximately 80,000 women globally each year, figures which have barely altered over the past 30 years.

The discovery, made by a team headed by University of Melbourne Professor David Bowtell, who is based at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, used samples and data collected by the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study (AOCS) and Australian and international partners. Co-authors on the study include Professor Michael Quinn, Melbourne University Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Women's, and the Mercy Hospitals Associate Clinical Professors Anne Hamilton, and Orla McNally from the Women's, which also provided data and patient samples through its Women's Cancer Research Centre.

In congratulating Professor Bowtell's team, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Liz Sonenberg said that important results like these testify to the foresight of the AOCS partners, when they set up a bio-specimen, clinical, genetic and epidemiological data resource for ovarian cancer researchers in 2001. "A similar approach underpins the development of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre [VCCC]. Close collaboration between clinicians and researchers is imperative if we want research breakthroughs to impact clinical care with optimum speed and efficacy," she said.

"Benefits of the co-location of partners in the VCCC and its proximity to other neighbouring world class research and clinical institutions include the opportunities to develop and share new research resources and to augment the development of new, more effective, treatments for patients," Professor Sonenberg said.

The VCCC project is being delivered as a public-private partnership under the State Government's Partnerships Victoria. The VCCC building, situated at the Haymarket roundabout in Parkville's thriving biomedical community, is nearing the end of construction and on schedule to begin treating patients and housing researchers in mid-2016. Bringing together an alliance of cancer researchers and clinicians from nine organisations in a community of practice will enable the VCCC to make an important difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. The Victorian Life Science Computation Initiative is also in nearby Carlton providing the critical infrastructure to support researchers in handling the increasingly large data sets in biotechnological research.

Professor Jim Bishop, Director of the VCCC, said: "This is a prime example of the leading international cancer research that is centred in a number of sites across Melbourne. Bringing together the expertise of exemplary research and clinical organisations around the complex and challenging problems that cancer presents will accelerate the pace of discovery and provide better targeted, more responsive, clinical care."

"We look forward to the increased collaboration that the Peter Mac's move to Parkville will bring, and anticipate great improvements in patient care from the combined efforts of all members," he said. More information about the program:Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance website.