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Ovarian Cancer Developments in the “Year of the Agent”

Ovarian Cancer Developments in the “Year of the Agent”

Mater Research's Professor John Hooper’s work in ovarian cancer research continues to look for new and novel ways to fight this disease.

Ovarian cancer may be one of the lesser recognised women’s cancers, but it is one of the deadliest, with only around a 40 per cent survival rate internationally after five years. Leader of the Cancer Biology Research Group and one of the co-leaders of the Mater Ovarian Cancer Research Collaborative (MOCRC), Professor John Hooper, along with clinical teams at Mater Hospital, aim to better the prognosis for the 1600 women who are diagnosed with this cancer each year in Australia.

One of the biggest issues facing women with ovarian cancer is early diagnosis. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to catch in the early stages as the most common symptom is pelvic pain, which can be indicative of a whole host of conditions from cysts, endometriosis, cancers and nerve issues and is often dismissed as a normal part of women’s lives.

“It’s not an easy diagnosis, and it’s not something that is often tested for right away as pelvic pain can be quite nebulous,” Professor Hooper said. 

In 2020 Professor Hooper and his team were recipients of a large grant from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to continue their vital research. The MRFF support is funding a phase one clinical trial targeting a protein that is enriched on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. The trial will answer the question about whether that protein could be an effective target for better diagnosis or treatment of epithelial ovarian cancer—which is the most common type of ovarian tumour—and develops in the lining of the ovaries, peritoneum and fallopian tubes.

“The agent we’re developing has significant potential as a triage tool to assess the spread of ovarian cancer. If the cancer lights up to this agent at a PET Ct scan, there may also be the opportunity to use the agent with a cytotoxic drug to begin treatment.”

“We’re very lucky here at Mater to have such an incredible gynaecological oncology hospital team working alongside us, especially Dr Lewis Perrin, Dr Rohan Lourie and Dr Cath Shannon, without whom we wouldn’t be able to deliver this care to the patients who need it most.”

We’ve also been blessed by very generous donors including “Cocktails for a Cure”, “Katherine’s High Tea”, the Celma Mastry Foundation and the Teal Brick Road Long Lunch, who have each been long-term supporters of MOCRC and essential for us moving our research discoveries into clinical trials in ovarian cancer patients.

Ovarian cancer research could use your support. Find out how you can fundraise your own way to support research done at Mater.