• Genomic changes driving ovarian cancer

Each year around 1400 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and more than two thirds of these women are diagnosed at an advanced stage. 

But thanks to important medical research happening right now at Mater, the future for a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer is looking brighter.

When you take on a Smiddy challenge or donate to a loved one who is, you’re helping fund research that has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For that, we can’t thank you enough.

Led by Professor John Hooper (right) at Mater Research—Mater’s world-class research institute—the ‘Genomic changes driving ovarian cancer’ project is aiming to develop new approaches that will help create more individualised treatment plans for patients.

How does it work?

As part of an initial pilot project involving a small number of women, when the patient has her surgery for ovarian cancer; Professor Hooper’s team is provided with tissue samples from the cancer. They then contrast the genetic results of the tumour against a genetic analysis of the patient’s blood. The idea is that this will allow the researchers to isolate the specific changes that have occurred at the genetic level in the cancer. A woman’s cancerous cells are then tested for their vulnerability to a variety of drugs, with the aim of identifying a drug that inhibits the growth of the cancer or, even better, causes it to regress.

Given that each patient has a unique set of genetic changes that controls how their cancer progresses, analysis of their genetic pathways can, at the moment, take several months if not years, and can be hugely expensive. Also, currently it can take many months to set up the experimental models to test for the best drug to use against each patient’s cancer. The goal of the project is to put the focus on the patient, developing the approaches, workflows, models and techniques to provide information to the patient and their doctors quickly enough to help make their treatment decisions more informed.

While there’s still a long way to go, if successful, this research could turn ovarian cancer into a manageable disease. Treatment and lifestyle plans would be individually tailored to each patient based on a genetic comparison between their DNA, and that of their cancer.

This study could also lead to an improved quality of life for patients by enhancing the survivability of ovarian cancer, decreasing the risk of tumour recurrence, and reducing the uncertainty they feel about whether their cancer will return.

You can help fund promising research like John Hooper’s study today, by donating directly to Smiling for Smiddy or one of riders, triathletes or swimmers. Or you can take the next step and take on a Smiddy Challenge yourself and help get the one-up on cancer. Check out our 2016 events to see which one is perfect for you. 


The Mater Foundation is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission ABN 96723184640.