Hope for ovarian cancer treatments

Precision medicine is providing new hope for patients with ovarian cancer, the most common cause of death from gynaecological cancers.

Dr Andrew Stephens

Only 3 out of every 10 women diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer will survive after five years. These statistics haven’t improved in 30 years, but precision medicine approaches are opening up new possibilities.

While most ovarian cancer patients initially respond well to chemotherapy, 90 per cent will relapse with tumours that are resistant to treatment. New treatments and approaches are vital to improving survival rates.

The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) tissue bank at Hudson Institute is a vital resource for tackling ovarian cancer. Funded by OCRF since 2006, it is one of the largest Australian repositories of ovarian cancer tumour samples for use in research and houses more than 2200 ovarian tissue samples.

In a new collaborative project focused on advancing treatment options, Dr Andrew Stephens, Head of the Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers laboratory and Associate Professor Ron Firestein, Head of the Cancer Genetics and Functional Genomics laboratory, are screening tumour samples from patients to identify how they respond to different drugs. Samples collected by the OCRF tissue bank will be screened for compatibility with drug compounds.

The results will provide oncologists with individual therapies to guide treatment based on individual tumour biology, specifically suited for each patient’s clinical history.

“This represents a new era in clinical practice – oncologists will no longer be restricted to a one-size-fits-all approach. By personalising treatment options, we are identifying the best therapy for each patient and providing better treatment choices. This is particularly important for ovarian cancer patients who develop resistance to standard chemotherapy,” said Dr Stephens.

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