International focus on our ovarian cancer research

In an exciting breakthrough, researchers from the Kolling Institute’s Bill Walsh Lab have identified new genes involved in the spread of ovarian cancer.

Tragically, it is the deadliest female cancer, claiming more than 900 lives in Australia each year. Most women are diagnosed relatively late, when the cancer has spread, significantly reducing their chances of survival.

The ovarian cancer research team from the Bill Walsh Lab is focusing its efforts on the role of the tumour microenvironment.

Newest team member Dr Razia Zakarya said this microenvironment provides the support network that the tumour cells need to survive and spread throughout the body.

“With the tumour cells relying heavily on their local microenvironment, it is emerging as an important target.

Lead author Dr Emily Colvin said we have been investigating the role of a specific cell in the ovarian tumour microenvironment called a cancer-associated fibroblast.

“We have identified new genes that are switched on in these fibroblasts and influence ovarian tumour spread. Our results also suggest that these genes may even play a role in how ovarian tumours avoid destruction by the immune system,” she said.

Research Director A/Prof Viive Howell said there is a real need for more research to improve outcomes for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“We are very grateful for the generous support from patient donations for this research.

“These exciting results confirm the crucial role of the tumor microenvironment in the spread of ovarian cancer. We hope to continue this research to find new ways to target the tumor microenvironment and control ovarian cancer spread.”

The research is receiving international attention following publication in the journal Cancer Science.