February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and a very timely discovery has been made by Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research which has fantastic potential for early diagnosis of this terrible disease.
Ovarian cancer is currently the most lethal gynaecological cancer in Australia, with almost 850 women dying from the disease each year*.
It is very difficult to detect and is often only discovered once it has spread past the pelvis and into other organs (often the stomach, bowel and lungs). But Australian scientists from the Garvan have identified early biochemical changes which may help diagnose the cancer before it spreads. They used whole-genome DNA profiling methods, in collaboration with researchers from the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick.
“One of the key methylated genes we identified was a novel gene, which had not been identified as being misregulated in any cancer before.” said Brian Gloss, a PhD student at the Garvan.
In February, ACRF will be working to raise awareness about fantastic research like this – research that brings hope to ovarian cancer patients, and for those with a family history of the disease.
While an estimated 1,488 women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia in 2015, the 5-year relative survival rate has increased significantly, from 33% in 1982-1987 to 40% in 2000-2006**.
It is hoped that discoveries being made at institutes like the Garvan will help the overall survival rate increase even further. The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has provided almost $23 million in funding to six different research institutes which study ovarian cancer, including three separate grants to the Garvan Institute of Medical Research totalling more than $6 million.
* Stats taken from The Garvan Institute of Medical Research website * Stats taken from Cancer Australia online