Drug study seeks to combat ovarian cancer chemotherapy

Treatment for ovarian cancer could come in the shape of small tablets in the future after researchers in Queensland were awarded a grant to investigate alternative approaches to tackling the disease.

Ovarian cancer affected an estimated 1300 Australian women in 2022 and is the deadliest gynaecological cancer, with a five-year survival rate of 49 per cent.

Chemotherapy is the most common form of treatment and the cancer is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, says Mater Research’s Brian Gabrielli, who will lead the study with the University of Queensland.

“One thing that is apparent in ovarian cancer is that if initial treatment fails, which it does for a fair percentage of patients, there are few other treatment options,” Professor Gabrielli said.

“Current chemotherapy has unpleasant side effects such as nausea, fatigue and weight loss. It also compromises the immune system, so new treatments for ovarian cancer would be very beneficial.”

The treatment builds on Prof Gabrielli’s decade-long work into melanomas combining lower doses of chemotherapy with a targeted therapy – taken in tablet form – to attack deadly skin cancers without the patient suffering the full usual effects of chemotherapy.

It will combine the chemotherapy drug hydroxyurea with targeted inhibitors, to regulate the body’s response to DNA damage.

Prof Gabrielli said targeting inhibitors in melanoma is a very common feature of high-grade serious ovarian cancer, and preliminary investigations suggest the treatment is effective.

“If we are able to apply this combination therapy to ovarian cancer then the toxicity of current chemotherapy is avoided – resulting in the patient not feeling anywhere near as bad during treatment, and importantly their immune system remains functional and intact,” he said.

“The promising part of this treatment is that it appears to drive an immune response against the cancer, so rather than debilitating a patient’s immune system, it enhances its ability to detect and respond to tumours.”


Fraser Barton
(Australian Associated Press)


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