Ovarian cancer hope

Posted 30 Jan 2024
There’s hope a new Flinders University research project could one day lead to new treatments for women with advanced stage ovarian cancer.

Dr Claire Jessup and Mr Rhys Fogarty have been awarded a Flinders Foundation Cancer Seed Grant to lay the foundations for immunotherapy treatment to become a more viable treatment option for ovarian cancer. 

“Immunotherapy approaches that act to reinvigorate the bodies’ own immune system against cancerous cells have brought new promise for treatment of many cancers,” Dr Jessup explains. 

“It’s achieved breakthrough success in the treatment of advanced melanoma for example, but so far has delivered poor clinical outcomes in ovarian cancer trials.”

In order for immunotherapy to work and for the body’s cells to attack cancerous cells, their inhibitory ‘checkpoint’ molecules need to be blocked. The Immunomodulation (or ‘iMOD’) laboratory team has designed a protein that blocks the ‘PD1’ checkpoints more effectively than current approaches and boosts immune cell activity.

This project will now enable the research team to test the approach on tissue obtained during surgery from patients with high-grade serious ovarian cancer to see if it may be more potent in stimulating the immunotherapy response.

“There is an urgent need for new treatments for ovarian cancer, because while many patients initially respond to chemotherapy, which is the current treatment, unfortunately many will relapse with no further treatment options available,” Dr Jessup says.

“We hope the outcome of this project could lead to a new treatment for ovarian cancer which greatly improves the lives of patients and their families, particularly in advanced stages.”

Research like this is incredibly important to women like Natalie May, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 10 years ago.

“To have a research team continually striving for new and better treatments is absolutely vital to the outcomes of women with ovarian cancer,” Natalie, who is also involved in the research team as a consumer representative, says.

Project Title: Targeting PD1 in ovarian cancer

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