Queensland researchers better-placed to attack ovarian cancer

Queenslanders diagnosed with ovarian cancer have new hope thanks to local research attacking cancerous ovarian cells while limiting impact on the ovaries and reducing patient side-effects.

With funding from Cancer Council Queensland, Mater Research Institute-UQ Associate Professor John Hooper’s research team has found that cancerous ovarian cells produce a specific protein that can be targeted by a new antibody drug.

Associate Professor Hooper said the team at the Mater Ovarian Cancer Research Collaborative noted that in preclinical models of ovarian cancer this antibody was very effective at killing off the ovarian cancer cells.

“One of the really interesting things is that while normal ovaries don’t produce this protein, the tumours of about 90 per cent of patients do,” he said.

“This means we can attack the cancerous cells while having little impact on the normal ovarian cells and that reduces the side-effects, which is obviously of great interest to patients.

“Another thing we found with this protein is that it sits on the surface of the cancerous cells so it’s much easier for the drug to target it.”

Associate Professor Hooper said it would be several years before human trials could be conducted and even longer before the drug was available commercially.

The next phase of the project is being funded by Cancer Council Queensland and will use patient samples to study how effective the antibody can be against ovarian cancer.

While the study is in the early stages, the research is expected to vastly improve clinical understanding of how to attack ovarian cancer.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said it was important for all women to get to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

“There are currently no effective screening tests for ovarian cancer,” Ms Clift said.

“In Queensland each year, around 250 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 150 women die from the disease.

“Ovarian cancer can be very difficult to diagnose early because symptoms can be vague and similar to other common illnesses.

“But when these symptoms are new for you, have persisted for two weeks or more and you have them on all or most days, then it’s time to see your doctor.

“Symptoms include increased abdominal size or bloating, unexplained abdominal or pelvic pain, feeling full and/or having difficulty eating, unexplained weight gain or loss, back pain, indigestion, nausea or excessive fatigue.

“If Queensland women have questions or concerns regarding ovarian cancer, they should visit their GP or call Cancer Council on 13 11 20.”

More information about Cancer Council Queensland and ovarian cancer is available via 13 11 20 or cancerqld.org.au.

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland
Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171