Ida Madsen Low-grade serous cancer researcher looking in microscope

Visit to Sydney low-grade serous research laboratory

Cure Our Ovarian Cancer enjoyed our visit to the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Sydney this week. We were there to visit Professor Anna deFazio and learn more about the low-grade serous ovarian cancer research her lab is doing.

Professor deFazio and her team work closely with researchers from the Peter Mac Cancer Centre in Melbourne and collaborate with the University of Edinburgh, UK and OvCare, Canada. Laboratory space is shared allowing an open exchange of ideas with other cancer researchers, including those working on melanoma, breast cancer and leukaemia.

We spoke with Professor deFazio about the recently published results of the PARAGON trial. This was a broad trial looking at the hormone inhibitor anastrozole, to treat recurrent gynaecological cancers. Results in the low-grade serous and borderline subset showed a median 9.5 month duration of clinical benefit.

Together Professor deFazio and her team, including Dr Tania Moujaber and Ida Madsen are looking for new treatments and ways to improve treatments. They are examining genetics and cancer proteins to search for potential treatment targets. In addition they maintain a panel of cancer cell lines which they use to test the effects of different medications. They have also started to grow 3D models of cancer cells and hope to drug panel screen these in the future.

Low-grade serous ovarian cancer cell line image on computer

Low-grade serous cancer cell line as viewed through electronic microscope

Their preclinical research has indicated that combining inhibitors, including those that target BRAF, may be an effective treatment for some women. They have a Phase 2 trial planned to investigate this further, and are currently applying for funding for the trial.

Anna deFazio discussing low-grade serous cancer findings on INOVATe study poster

Professor Anna deFazio

“There are promising results coming from our lab, and from others working on low-grade serous ovarian cancer, but grant funding is scarce. Partial funding from charities such as Cure Our Ovarian Cancer is enormously valuable and can contribute to supporting young researchers like Ida, who depend completely on precarious grant funding.” – Professor deFazio

Despite the challenges, Professor deFazio remains committed to attacking low-grade serous ovarian carcinoma from all angles. Participation in support groups and Multi Disciplinary Meetings with Oncologists and Surgeons continue to remind Professor deFazio of just how important it is to find better treatments for women with this disease.

Read more: Australian low-grade serous carcinoma research

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Published: October 25th 2019