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    Research home > Beat Cancer Project > Ovarian cancer: Early diagnosis and improving treatment

    Ovarian cancer: Early diagnosis and improving treatment

    Dr Carmela Ricciardelli & Associate Professor Martin Oehler

    Annexin A2: a novel biomarker and therapeutic target for ovarian cancer

    Our research

    Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease and the leading cause of death from gynaecological cancers, affecting approximately 1 in 90 women in Australia. Over 70% of patients present with advanced disease, and despite improvements in surgery and new developments in chemotherapy, ovarian cancer mortality rates have not changed dramatically over the last decade. 

    Significant improvement in ovarian cancer survival will require;

    • The development of new ovarian cancer biomarkers (biological indicators of disease) for early detection and
    • More effective molecularly targeted therapeutics (i.e. drugs that interfere with specific molecules involved in cancer cell growth and survival).

     Our research is focused on greater understanding of the mechanisms of ovarian cancer spread, resistance to chemotherapy and the identification of new biomarkers for ovarian cancer detection.

    What we aim to achieve

    The two major challenges in improving ovarian cancer survival outcomes are;

    1. The identification of cancer markers to aid in early diagnosis and 
    2. The discovery of new therapeutic targets (cells and molecules involved in cancer development that can be targeted) for effective treatment of advanced disease and treatment of resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. 

    Our work to date has made substantial progress towards both of these goals through targeting the protein annexin (A2). We have shown that annexin A2 is highly expressed in 90% of serous ovarian cancers (the most common subtype) and is actively involved in the process of ovarian cancer metastasis (the spread of cancer cells to other sites in the body). 

    Our next steps and milestones

    Ongoing studies will identify the different roles that the protein annexin A2 plays and will evaluate the effectiveness of a range of strategies to block annexin A2.These will be tested in the lab using models of ovarian cancer. 

    Our research will generate evidence that annexin A2 inhibitors can be used to increase ovarian cancer survival, and will inform further testing of annexin A2 inhibitors in future clinical studies. These A2 inhibitors may also be effective for recurrent chemoresistant disease which has very limited treatment options and the major cause for ovarian cancer death. 

    We expect that our study will provide a strong rationale for targeting annexin A2 in serous ovarian cancer patients. Our findings will provide important groundwork to inform further testing of annexin A2 inhibitors for clinical studies in the future. 

    What motivates you to pursue cancer research?

    My ultimate aim is to improve survival for people diagnosed with cancer. Recently, I was touched by cancer in a personal way when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. My personal experience has made me even more determined to work as hard as possible to make a difference.

    What is your message to supporters?

    Funds from Cancer Council SA donors are currently being used to support my research into several inhibitors that could be used as new drugs to treat ovarian cancer in the future. Better cancer treatments are urgently required particularly for ovarian cancer, which has a poor prognosis. My ultimate aim is make a difference to and improve survival outcomes for people diagnosed with cancer. We are very grateful for all the hard work and dedication from supporters of Cancer Council SA that have helped raise funds for important cancer research in South Australia.


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