Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the tumour has spread to other parts of the body. This can make it difficult to treat with surgery alone. The development of resistance to currently used chemotherapies is a major problem. Despite this, treatment strategies have not been improved on for decades. The identification of new, more effective therapies is needed.

Ovarian cancer is the 10th most common cancer in Australian women

1 in 84 women will develop ovarian cancer

Over 70% of women are diagnosed at an advanced stage

Ovarian Cancer Research Group Leader: Dr Emily Colvin

Dr Emily Colvin is the inaugural Proud Family Fellow and a Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellow. She is experienced in the development of novel preclinical models of cancer and identifying potential prognostic biomarkers in cancer. Her current research interests are investigating the role of the tumour microenvironment in ovarian cancer and evaluating the effectiveness of new cancer treatments.


1. Evaluation of lysyl oxidase inhibitors as a new treatment for ovarian cancer

Dr Emily Colvin, A/Prof Viive Howell, Dr Sally Baron-Hay

We have identified a family of enzymes, called Lysyl Oxidases, which play an important role in modulating the tumour microenvironment and the ability of ovarian cancer cells to metastasise. Therefore, we wish to look at developing ways to target these enzymes and make current treatments for ovarian cancer more effective.

Funding: Proud Family Fellowship, Cancer Institute NSW

2. Investigating the role of long non-coding RNA in the ovarian cancer microenvironment

Dr Emily Colvin, A/Prof Viive Howell, Dr Goli Samimi, Dr Fatemeh Vafaee

We have demonstrated that a particular family of genes, called long non-coding RNAs, are involved in regulating the tumour microenvironment. This project aims to uncover the roles of these genes, including their roles in influencing the way tumours interact with the immune system.

Funding: Proud Family Fellowship

3. Improving ovarian cancer treatment using nanoparticles

Dr Emily Colvin, A/Prof Viive Howell, Prof Brian Hawkett

Our research is focusing on the use of theranostic nanomedicine to improve treatment strategies for women with ovarian cancer. “Theranostics” is a new term to describe the combining of therapy with diagnostics. Nanotechnology/nanomedicine uses devices or particles on a nanometre scale; a nanometre is one billionth of a metre. Our laboratory is currently using novel iron oxide nanoparticles to enhance the delivery of chemotherapy to sites of tumour growth, while limiting toxicity to surrounding normal tissues.

Funding: Fight for a Cure

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