Unlocking a step to beat ovarian cancer

Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute scientist Nuzhat Ahmed. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute scientist Nuzhat Ahmed. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

BALLARAT ovarian cancer researcher Nuzhat Ahmed has led a world-first important step in creating better treatment options for patients with the disease.

Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute worked in collaboration with Melbourne-based Hudson Institute of Medical Research to uncover key differences between stem cells in ovarian cancer tumors, before and after chemotherapy treatment.

The cutting edge work focuses on protein changes, good and bad responses to the treatment and interactions with a patient’s immune system.

Researchers’ next aim is to understand how these changes impact cancer spreading, chemo-resistance and cancer recurrence.

The joint study has been published in highly-regarded international nature journal Scientific Reports. FECRI honorary director George Kannourakis said the Institute had already fielded 20 requests across the world for a copy of the full report.

“It early work but work that may allow us to closer target treatment, if a good response in how protein interacts with the cells,” Professor Kannourakis said.

“Ones that don’t respond well, where proteins block the immune system, we may be able to identify and create anti-bodies that may allow us to treat patients with immunology.”

Ovarian cancer patients diagnosed at an advanced stage have an 80 per cent chance of complete remission after initial surgery and chemotherapy, according to FECRI. The survival rate of patients in the next five years is drastically low due to regrowth of chemo resistant cells.

Tackling this ‘silent killer’ has driven Professor Ahmed in her quest to reduce suffering, improving quality of life and unravelling the complexities of ovarian cancer with her research. She joined FECRI as a principal research fellow in May last year.

Professor Kannourakis said the published study was a major plus for Professor Ahmed and her team in their work with the Hudson Institute, and also for FECRI.

The study was funded by Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation in Melbourne and supported by the June Wilson Trust, BJT Legal.