Ovarian Biology

ResearchCentre for Reproductive Health > Ovarian Biology

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Ovarian Biology

Research Group Head: Professor Jock Findlay

Ovarian cancer has a five year survival rate of less than 30 per cent, making it the most deadly form of all gynaecological cancers. Most ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an advanced metastatic stage when the disease is no longer confined to the ovaries and has spread to other organs in the peritoneal cavity. While cytoreductive surgery and chemotherapy are initially effective in eradicating the disease in the short-term, relapse in advanced-stage patients is inevitable and almost all patients develop highly aggressive chemo-resistant tumours. We are working to understand what causes this recurrence and spread in ovarian cancer. There is evidence to suggest that ovarian cancer may be driven by a sub-population of tumour cells called cancer stem cells (CSCs), which exhibit stem cell-like traits. These cellsnot only display increased self-renewal characteristics as seen in embryonic stem cells (ESCs), but also exhibit tumorigenic survival properties and have been implicated in metastasis and chemoresistance. The molecular mechanisms which drive CSC-mediated progression, chemoresistance and recurrence of ovarian cancer is the topic of our research.

Research Project

The role of Tissue Inhibitors of Metalloproteinases [TIMPs] in metastasis and chemoresistance in high grade serous ovarian cancer.

Research Group

Professor Jock Findlay (Research Group Head)
Professor Nuzhat Ahmed (Hon Principal Research Fellow)
Ruth Escalona (PhD Student)

Selected publications

LATIFI, A., ABUBAKER, K., CASTRECHINI, N., WARD, A.C., LIONGUE, C., DOBILL, F., KUMAR, J., THOMPSON, E.W., QUINN, M.A., FINDLAY, J.K. and AHMED, N.  Cisplatin treatment of primary and metastatic epithelial ovarian carcinomas generates residual cells with mesenchymal stem cell-like profile.  Journal  of Cellular Biochemistry 112, 2850-2864,           2011.

AHMED, N., ABUBAKER, K., FINDLAY, J.K. and QUINN, M.  Cancerous ovarian stem cells: obscure targets for therapy but relevant to chemoresistance.  Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 114, 21-34, 2012.

LATIFI, A., LUWOR, R.B., BILANDZIC, M., NAZARETIAN, S., STENVERS, K., PYMAN, J., ZHU, H., THOMPSON, E.W., FINDLAY, J.K. and AHMED, N.  Isolation and characterization of tumor cells from the ascites of ovarian cancer patients: molecular phenotype of chemoresistant ovarian tumors.  PLoS One 7, E46858, October 2012.

ABUBAKER, K., LATIFI, A., LUWOR, R., NAZARETIAN, S., ZHU, H., QUINN, M.A., THOMPSON, E.W., FINDLAY, J.K. and AHMED, N.  Short-term single treatment of chemotherapy results in the enrichment of ovarian cancer stem cell-like cells leading to an increased tumor burden.  Molecular Cancer 12, 24, 2013.

BILANDZIC, M., CHU, S., WANG, Y., TAN, H.L., FULLER, P.J., FINDLAY, J.K. and STENVERS, K.L.  Betaglycan alters NFB-TGFβ2 crosstalk to reduce survival of human granulosa tumor cells. Molecular Endocrinology 27, 466-479, 2013.

SAMARDZIJA C., QUINN, M., FINDLAY, J.K. and AHMED, N.  Atributes of Oct4 in stem cell biology:  perspectives on cancer stem cells of the ovary.  Journal of Ovarian Research 5, 37, 2013.

ABUBAKER, K., LUWOR, R.B., ESCALONA, R., MCNALLY, O., QUINN, M.A., THOMPSON, E.W., FINDLAY, J.K. and AHMED, N.  Targeted disruption of the JAK2/STAT3 pathway in combination with systemic administration of paclitaxel inhibits the priming of ovarian cancer stem-like cells leading to a reduced tumor burden.  Front Oncol. 2014 Apr 9;4:75. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2014.00075. eCollection 2014.

ABUBAKER, K., LUWOR, R.B., ZHU, H., MCNALLY, O., QUINN, M.A., BURNS, C.J., THOMPSON, E.W., FINDLAY, J.K. and AHMED, N.  Inhibition of the JAK2/STAT3 pathway in ovarian cancer results in the loss of cancer stem cell-like characteristics and a reduced tumor burden.  BMC Cancer 14, 317, 2014.

BILANDZIC, M., WANG, Y., AHMED, N., LUWOR, R.B., ZHU, H.J., FINDLAY, J.K., STENVERS, K.L. Betaglycan blocks metastatic behaviors in human granulosa cell tumors by suppressing NF B-mediated induction of MMP2.  Cancer Letters 354, 107-114. 2014

AHMED, N., ABUBAKER, K., FINDLAY, J.K.  Ovarian cancer stem cells: molecular concepts and relevance as therapeutic targets.  Molecular Aspects of Medicine 39: 110-125, 2014.

SAMARDZIJA, C., LUWOR, B.R., VOLCHEK, M., QUINN, M.A., FINDLAY, J.K. and AHMED, N.  A critical role of Oct4A in mediating metastasis and disease-free survival in a mouse model of ovarian cancer.  Molecular Cancer 14: 152, 2015 doi: 10.1186/s12943-015-0417-y.

AHMED, N., GREENING, D., SAMARDZIJA, C., ESCALONA, R.M., CHEN, M, FINDLAY, J.K., KANNOURAKIS, G.  Unique proteome signature of post-chemotherapy ovarian cancer ascites-derived tumor cells.  Sci Rep. 2016 6:30061.

SAMARDZIJA, C., LUWOR, R.B., QUINN, M.A., KARROURAKIS, G., FINDLAY, J.K., AHMED, N. Coalition of Oct4A and β1 integrins in facilitating metastasis in ovarian cancer.  BMC Cancer. 16:432.