$3.75m awarded to transform the way ovarian cancer is treated

The Cancer Council of NSW has awarded its annual Translational Program Grant to a Sydney-led project aiming to match ovarian cancer patients with the treatment or clinical trial most likely to work for their cancer subtype.

Cancer Council has awarded its annual $3.75 million Translational Program Grant to a research team led by Professor Anna deFazio from the University of Sydney, exploring how to better personalise ovarian cancer treatment for Australian women.

Professor Anna deFazio and her team will spend the next five years creating a process by which ovarian cancer patients can have their cancer comprehensively analysed to determine its molecular profile. If standard treatments are not effective, patients can be matched with an appropriate clinical trial, based on the individual characteristics of their tumour.

This will improve treatment outcomes by ensuring that treatment approaches offered to an ovarian cancer patient are those with the highest likelihood of being successful for their specific subtype of the disease.

Professor deFazio, who is the Sydney West Chair in Translational Cancer Research and co-director of the Centre for Cancer Research at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR), is hopeful that this research will transform the way women with ovarian cancer are treated.

“Many people don’t know that ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer in Australia,” said Professor deFazio, from the University of Sydney School of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.

“Currently, only around 45 percent of ovarian cancer patients will survive for five years. Unlike many other cancers, these survival odds have only slightly improved in the last two decades — one of the main reasons for this is that each ovarian cancer differs significantly in its genetic and molecular make-up, which results in widely varied treatment outcomes.

“Encouragingly, the last few years have seen a rapid expansion in the number and variety of targeted cancer treatment options.”

We will work to provide the missing link in this treatment path, generating the data and processes to match patients with the ideal treatment for their cancer type,” said Professor deFazio.

The University of Sydney-led team has assembled an expert team of researchers and clinicians to make this happen, including from WIMR, The Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, the Prince of Wales Hospital, Royal Hospital for Women, Royal North Shore Hospital, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, the University of Technology Sydney, the Children’s Medical Research Institute, and from interstate, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and overseas, from the National Cancer Institute in the United States.

To reach their goal, Professor deFazio’s team will analyse the molecular profile of more than 300 ovarian cancer patients in NSW to better understand the subsets of ovarian cancer and how each type responds to specific treatments. The team will also look at ways of more simply communicating complex molecular test results to the treating clinical team, so they are easier to interpret.

Finally, Professor deFazio’s team will use patient samples to print 3D models of ovarian tumours to test treatment approaches and help design new early phase clinical trials.

Professor Karen Canfell, Director of Research at Cancer Council NSW, is proud the organisation was able to fund such innovative research: “We only award our Translational Program Grant to cancer research that will rapidly translate research discoveries into clinical practice and policy,” she said.

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