Cancer Council NSW awards $3.75M for research aiming to transform way ovarian cancer is treated

Cancer Council NSW has awarded its annual $3.75M Translational Program Grant to a research team, led by Professor Anna deFazio from the University of Sydney, exploring how to better personalise ovarian cancer treatment for Australian women.

Professor Anna deFazio and her team will spend the next five years creating a process by which ovarian cancer patients can have their cancer comprehensively analysed to determine its molecular profile. If standard treatments are not effective, patients can be matched with an appropriate clinical trial, based on the individual characteristics of their tumour. This will improve treatment outcomes by ensuring that treatment approaches offered to an ovarian cancer patient are those with the highest likelihood of being successful for their specific subtype of the disease.

Professor deFazio is hopeful that this research will transform the way women with ovarian cancer are treated.

“Many people don’t know that ovarian cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer in Australia,” said Professor deFazio. “Currently, only around 45% of ovarian cancer patients will survive for 5 years. Unlike many other cancers, these survival odds have only slightly improved in the last two decades. One of the main reasons for this is that each ovarian cancer differs significantly in its genetic and molecular make up, which results in widely varied treatment outcomes.

“Encouragingly, the last few years have seen a rapid expansion in the number and variety of targeted cancer treatment options. We will work to provide the missing link in this treatment path, generating the data and processes to match patients with the ideal treatment for their cancer type,” said Professor deFazio.

With Cancer Council’s funding, Professor deFazio will lead an expert team of researchers and clinicians from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, The Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, the Prince of Wales Hospital, Royal Hospital for Women, Royal North Shore Hospital, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, the University of Sydney, the University of Technology Sydney, the Children’s Medical Research Institute, the Kolling Institute and from interstate, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and overseas, from the National Cancer Institute in the USA.

Professor deFazio’s team will analyse the molecular profile of over 300 ovarian cancer patients in NSW to better understand the subsets of ovarian cancer and how each type responds to specific treatments. The team will also look at ways of more simply communicating complex molecular test results to the treating clinical team, so they are easier to interpret. Finally, Professor deFazio’s team will use patient samples to print 3D models of ovarian tumours to test treatment approaches and help design new early phase clinical trials.

Professor Karen Canfell, Director of Research at Cancer Council NSW, said the organisation was proud to be able to fund such innovative research and eminent researchers and encourages Australians to support research into women’s cancers by participating in Girls’ Night In.

“Our Translational Program Grants aim to fund cancer research that will rapidly translate discoveries into clinical practice and policy,” said Karen Canfell.

“Ovarian cancer is a priority for translational research. Unlike cancers of the bowel and breast, where early detection has been a key to improved survival, we have no established way to detect ovarian cancer early. This is because ovarian cancer does not present at early or precancerous stage in a form that we can screen for. The key to improved survival on current knowledge will be adapting what is working for some women in a systematic way. Rapidly applying current knowledge and prioritising research where we don’t have the answers is the key to our goal of a cancer-free future.”

Professor Canfell said it only with the support of the community that Cancer Council is able to fund such impactful research projects.

Girls’ Night In is happening this month and it’s a great chance for women to get together with their girlfriends and raise money for projects like this that focus on women’s cancers.

If you’d like to support projects like this, you can sign up to host a Girls’ Night In this February. Money raised will help fund vital research into women’s cancers, cancer prevention and advocacy programs, and support services to help those affected at every stage of their journey.

Register to host your Girls’ Night In this February to help save lives. Visit or call 1300 65 65 85.

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