2022 was a big year for scientific and clinical research at Ovarian Cancer Action, from progress across our landmark IMPROVE UK programme to advances in developing new treatments. Here are a few highlights:
A nationwide trial uniting UK researchers
BriTROC-2 is an ambitious trial that involves collecting samples from across the country and brings researchers together to study how the DNA in different high grade serous ovarian cancers changes over time. We want to understand why some high grade serous cancers comes back after surgery and chemotherapy.
In the sample collection phase, 7 of the 10 sites taking part in recruiting patients and collecting samples have opened with the number of patient samples collected on target. Work to prepare for analysis will begin in the next year.
On the way to early diagnosis
95% of women will survive their cancer for five years or more if they are diagnosed at stage 1. Yet, the majority are diagnosed at stages 3c and 4. Professor Ahmed is making strides to learn about how ovarian cancer originates. By learning more about this complex molecular landscape, they hope to find biomarkers that could be used for early detection.
This year they characterised the mutations found in normal Fallopian tubes (the origin of ovarian cancer) and the characteristics of stem cells found there. They have also validated the Oxford Classic, a method for classifying ovarian cancer, which could one day this could be used to work out a patient’s prognosis.
Making armies out of people’s immune cells
Ahmed at Oxford University is studying T-cells to develop a type of treatment
T-cells play an important part in fighting infection and diseases, including
cancer. In the type of immunotherapy Ahmed is developing, the T-cells are taken
from the patient and revitalised in the lab to give back to the patient.
In the first year of the project, Ahmed and his team developed crucial methods for expanding patients’ T-cells in the lab and methods for checking if T-cells are killing cancer cells or not. They have also developed mini versions of normal Fallopian tubes (the organ where ovarian cancer originates) and tumours to test their methods. Finally, they have also discovered a unique population of T-cells that have features which might make them optimal for fighting ovarian cancer.
Using viruses that target cancer cells as a novel treatment
Ovarian cancer can grow more quickly by suppressing the immune system. To tackle this Professor Cook and his team are studying viruses that target and kill cancer cells while also delivering molecules to restore the immune system.
Such viruses don’t affect human cells and have proven to be safe in clinical trials with one already being approved for the treatment of another type of cancer. The team has already shown that viruses expressing a certain molecule extend the life of mice with ovarian cancer and they want to see if the approach works in humans. If this works, they can then develop the therapy for a clinical trial.
This year, seven ground-breaking
projects across all four nations started to tackle health
inequalities for women with ovarian cancer. Read more about their progress
From everyone at Ovarian Cancer Action, we want to thank you for your support. You make it possible to fund this research. We also thank our Research Network which
ensures the research we fund has the patients at the heart of it. Finally, a thank
you to the experts in the field who review our research funding to ensure we can select and fund the most
impactful research to make a difference in women’s lives.