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Professor Anna DeFazio leads the Gynaecological Oncology Research Laboratory at the Centre for Cancer Research, The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR). She also holds the Sydney-West Chair in Translational Cancer Research, University of Sydney, at Westmead Hospital.
Ovarian Cancer Cells (from WIMR)
Ovarian cancer has been treated as a single disease but researchers are now beginning to understand that it is in fact made up of distinct subtypes and that the chemotherapy that works best for one subtype may not be the best choice for all.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Professor’s deFazio’s team at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research are working to give hope to women to look forward to longer and healthier lives.
“After a long time where we had nothing better to offer women with ovarian cancer, things are changing quickly. We now have the tools to look at ovarian cancer very differently, and what we’re seeing could transform treatment,” said Professor deFazio.
Our researchers are looking at tumour mutations and genes on a molecular level discovering that each cancer has its own unique characteristics. The trick will be to find the treatment that works best for each type of ovarian cancer, and sometimes it might be a drug not usually used for ovarian cancer patients.
We already have patients diagnosed with resistant ovarian cancer, who have no further treatment options after failing chemotherapy treatment, treated with effective new drugs used for melanoma – as these ovarian cancers had the same mutation in a gene that frequently occurs in melanoma – and the tumours have slowly melted away.
This is not the cure for all ovarian cancer. The drugs worked well on these patients but it might not work for others. However, this outcome demonstrates a promising mechanism, that is, if we can match the right treatment with the right patient, we may be able to improve treatment outcome –to do this, the researchers at the Westmead Institute have joined with their colleagues across NSW to implement a program called INOVATe – Individualised ovarian cancer treatment through integration of genomic pathology into multidisciplinary care, funded by the Cancer Institute NSW.
Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are invited to join the INOVATe study. After testing their tumour samples, the information will be added to the INOVATe data portal along with information from 2000 ovarian cancer patients. Currently a research tool, this portal in the future could be used by clinicians so they can see how their patients fit into the broader ovarian cancer picture and hopefully be able to select the most promising drug trials for each patient.