Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the genital tract in women. It predominantly affects older women, with 90 per cent of cases occurring in the postmenopausal years. Although the prognosis for early endometrial cancer is generally good, cancers identified at late stages are associated with poorer outcomes. However, there is no non-invasive test to detect endometrial cancer in its early stage.
We have discovered that the proprotein convertase (PC) family in the endometrial lining of the uterus is regulated differently in reproductive-age women compared to those of post-menopausal age. In particular we find that, while most PC proteins are normally decreased in post-menopausal women, some PCs and their activity become enhanced in the uterine fluid from women with endometrial cancer.
Furthermore, we have discovered that the PC activity is also significantly increased in endocervical fluid from endometrial cancer patients; this fluid can be obtained by a simple swab. We are now exploring whether the detection of PC activity in these fluids could be used as the basis for a simple and non-invasive test for endometrial cancer.
We are also interested in ovarian cancer, which is the most deadly gynaecologic malignancy in the world. Each year, about 1400 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While chemotherapy is often a promising initial treatment, cancer recurrence is a major therapeutic challenge. We aim to use our knowledge of the PC family and a range of other proteins to better understand the fundamental biology of chemoresistance in ovarian cancer, thus potentially leading to strategies to reduce ovarian cancer recurrence.
Dr Tom Jobling (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Dr Shih-Ern Yao (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Dr Andrew Stephens (Hudson Institute, Melbourne, Australia)
Dr Maree Bilandzic (Hudson Institute, Melbourne, Australia)