Ovarian cancer is one of Australia’s largest disease burdens, with a diagnosis meaning just a 43% chance of surviving for 5 years or longer. (Source – Cancer Australia)
Most women who develop ovarian cancer only receive a diagnosis once symptoms develop and often, this is too late for effective treatment. Further, only a subset of patients will respond well to chemotherapy and unfortunately, there is currently no diagnostic tool available to determine which patients will respond and which won’t, meaning that a large number of women are subjected to difficult treatment regimens unnecessarily.
Hunter researchers are working to change this. They are developing early detection methods and diagnostic tools to ensure that women are able to make informed choices about their treatment options as well as trialling new treatments so that those women who are diagnosed can conquer their illness.
Researchers have also found a particular protein called Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS) can act as a tumour suppressor in ovarian cancer and are trialling the use of MIS in reducing ovarian cancer size and reducing side effects compared to treatments like chemotherapy. Although currently in preclinical models, Dr Pradeep Tanwar expects that “MIS has the potential to be an extremely effective treatment” with studies ongoing.
Hunter researchers are also interested in the development of endometrial cancer, or tumours that develop in the lining of the uterus.
Endometrial cancer is the most common type of cancer of the uterus in Australia. (Source – Cancer Australia)
Although chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can be effective for patients, the recurrence rate of endometrial cancer is still quite high and better treatments are needed.
Hunter researchers are investigating cheap and safe methods to improve outcomes for women with endometrial cancer, by repurposing existing drugs that are used for the treatment of high blood pressure. These drugs could be used immediately after surgery as a long-term preventative to help stop the cancer coming back, or to improve chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment of advanced endometrial cancer without increasing the toxicity associated with therapy.
These drugs, known as renin-blockers and renin-receptor-blockers could revolutionise the treatment practice and recovery outcomes for endometrial cancer patients.
Genetic testing of endometrial cancers has also shown potential genetic markers and mechanisms of genetic damage that encourage the progression of the disease. Further research aims to find a genetic biomarker for the detection of endometrial disease development.