Ovarian Biology

Ovarian Biology Research Group

Research Group Head

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.  The Ovarian Biology group is 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 cells not 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 Projects

Research Group

Selected publications

  • Latifi A, Abubaker K, Castrechini N, Ward AC, Liongue C, Dobill F, Kumar J, Thompson EW, Quinn MA, Findlay JK, Ahmed N (2011) 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.

  • Ahmed N, Abubaker K, Findlay JK, Quinn M (2012) Cancerous ovarian stem cells: obscure targets for therapy but relevant to chemoresistance. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 114:21-34.

  • Latifi A, Luwor RB, Bilandzic M, Nazaretian S, Stenvers K, Pyman J, Zhu H, Thompson EW, Findlay JK, Ahmed N (2012) Isolation and characterization of tumor cells from the ascites of ovarian cancer patients: molecular phenotype of chemoresistant ovarian tumors. PLoS One 7 E46858.

  • Abubaker K, Latifi A, Luwor R, Nazaretian S, Zhu H, Quinn MA, Thompson EW, Findlay JK, Ahmed N (2013) 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.

  • Bilandzic M, Chu S, Wang Y, Tan HL, Fuller PJ, Findlay JK, Stenvers KL (2013) Betaglycan alters NFB-TGFβ2 crosstalk to reduce survival of human granulosa tumor cells. Molecular Endocrinology 27:466-479.

  • Samardzija C, Quinn M, Findlay JK, Ahmed N (2013) Atributes of Oct4 in stem cell biology:  perspectives on cancer stem cells of the ovary. Journal of Ovarian Research 5:37.

  • Abubaker K, Luwor RB, Escalona R, McNally O, Quinn MA, Thompson EW, Findlay JK and Ahmed N (2014) 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 4:75. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2014.00075. eCollection.

  • Abubaker K, Luwor RB, Zhu H, McNally O, Quinn MA, Burns CJ, Thompson EW, Findlay JK, Ahmed N (2014) 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.

  • Bilandzic M, Wang Y, Ahmed N, Luwor RB, Zhu HJ, Findlay JK, Stenvers, KL (2014) Betaglycan blocks metastatic behaviors in human granulosa cell tumors by suppressing NF B-mediated induction of MMP2. Cancer Letters 354:107-114.

  • Ahmed N, Abubaker K, Findlay JK (2014) Ovarian cancer stem cells: molecular concepts and relevance as therapeutic targets.  Molecular Aspects of Medicine 39:110-125.

  • Samardzija C, Luwor BR, Volchek M, Quinn MA, Findlay JK, Ahmed N (2015) A critical role of Oct4A in mediating metastasis and disease-free survival in a mouse model of ovarian cancer.  Molecular Cancer 14:152 doi: 10.1186/s12943-015-0417-y.

  • Ahmed N, Greening D, Samardzija C, Escalona RM, Chen M, Findlay JK, Kannourakis G (2016) Unique proteome signature of post-chemotherapy ovarian cancer ascites-derived tumor cells. Sci Rep 6:30061.

  • Samardzija C, Luwor RB, Quinn MA, Karrourakis G, Findlay JK, Ahmed N (2016) Coalition of Oct4A and β1 integrins in facilitating metastasis in ovarian cancer. BMC Cancer 16:432.