Tracking ovarian cancers’ evolution to change approaches to treatment

David Bowtell, Peter Mac, cancer research, charity foundation, cancer research, cancer scientists, research discoveries, give to charity, progress, science, treatments, ovarian cancer, DNA, genetic mutations

We often think of evolution as a positive thing, associating it with progress, growth and development. But because evolution exists in all living things, including cancer cells, it also presents one of the greatest challenges for researchers as they seek out new ways to outsmart an ever moving target.

But thanks to the team of world-leading researchers at the ACRF funded Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre at least four evolutionary processes have now been identified that enable ovarian cancer cells to resist chemotherapy treatments.

In collaboration with two other key ACRF-funded research institutes, University of Queensland’s Institute of Molecular Biosciences and Westmead’s Millennium Institute, the research team used whole genome sequencing to analyse tumour DNA samples from 91 patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

Their new insights into how these cells genetically change to become resilient will allow researchers to investigate more effective treatments – treatments that are tailored to break through each defensive barrier.

The defence mechanisms identified in these cancer cells included everything from “hijacking” genetic switches that enable them to pump chemotherapy drugs out of their way to reshaping and accumulating “scar tissue” which appears to block the chemotherapy drugs.

‘In this research we saw stark reminders of how evolution presents us with incredible challenges – to fight an insidious enemy, you need to understand them, and we’ve made a great leap forward thanks to a truly international collaborative effort ,’ says Peter Mac researcher Professor David Bowtell.

Before this clinicians would watch as initially effective treatment became ineffective and cancer cells made an aggressive comeback in their patients. For decades they had little information to guide them when selecting treatment for women whose cancer has returned.

‘The research is a turning-point in the global fight against ovarian cancer it offers great hope to patients world-wide,’ says Professor Bowtell.

To date this has been the largest complete DNA analysis of ovarian cancer in the world and it would not have been possible without the outstanding support of ACRF donors.

This information was originally published by the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation.

Childhood neuroblastoma treatment enhanced with high blood pressure ‘beta-blockers’

An ‘old’ drug which is normally used to treat high blood pressure in adults could bring new hope to children with Neuroblastoma, researchers from the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia have discovered.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from nerve cells left over from a baby’s development in the womb, predominantly affecting very young children – between 0 and 5 years old.

But researchers conducting pre-clinical trials at CCIA (a world-class facility that the ACRF is proud to have funded via a $3.1m grant) have combined standard chemotherapy with beta-blockers to successfully enhance the effectiveness of the chemotherapy – paving the way towards better treatment outcomes, and decreased treatment doses for these young children. Their study has been published in the prestigious British Journal of Cancer. Continue reading “Childhood neuroblastoma treatment enhanced with high blood pressure ‘beta-blockers’”

ACRF medical adviser wins top science prize

ACRF congratulates Philip Hogg

247Studios_Eureka_Prizes_0048-300x215Philip Hogg, director of the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at UNSW, has won the 2010 Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation.

The prestigious award, announced in Sydney on August 17, is for research leading to the development of a novel class of anti-cancer drugs. It also recognises Professor Hogg’s work in monitoring real-time cell death during chemotherapy.

“Professor Hogg has been a member of the ACRF Medical Research Advisory Committee since 2003,” said ACRF chairman, Tom Dery. Continue reading “ACRF medical adviser wins top science prize”