Ovarian Cancer Action Research Grant Award Ceremony

08 October 2018
Research Awards

Last night the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Grant Awards took place at the Royal Society, awarding funds to scientists working to tackle the disease at every level – from screening and early detection to treatment and recurrence.

We want to see significant improvements in the diagnosis, treatment and survival of women with ovarian cancer. To do this, our ambition is to invest £5 million into ovarian cancer research over the next five years, starting now. 

The evening was a fantastic opportunity to announce the charity’s new research grants and thank those who have made this work possible; not only the scientists working on the frontline but the donors, fundraisers, corporate partners, volunteers, trustees and patrons who have lent their support to Ovarian Cancer Action.

The Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre is home to 60 scientists and doctors who share our determination to fight the disease. They are led by our Director of Research, Professor Iain McNeish, who has an international reputation in the field of ovarian cancer.

We award grants for research both at the Centre and beyond to fight ovarian cancer and are proud to introduce the scientists awarded grants in 2018.

  • Is it possible to screen for ovarian cancer?

    Professor Ahmed Ahmed, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford

    The earlier ovarian cancer is detected, the better chance a woman has of survival. Professor Ahmed Ahmed and his team are working to better understand ovarian cancer in order to develop the world's first ovarian cancer screening tool. The lab has already made a key discovery: a protein called SOX2 is far more prevalent in the Fallopian tubes of a women with or at risk of ovarian cancer.

    What's next?

    Professor Ahmed's goal is to learn as much as possible about the origin of ovarian cancer and find biological markers, like SOX2, that flag the growth of the disease. He intends to use DNA data to map the genetic profile of these precancerous lesions to uncover how they become cancerous.

    Ahmed lab2
  • How can we prevent spread and recurrence?

    Professor Ahmed Ahmed, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford

    Eradicating cancer completely through chemotherapy is difficult and in many cases, invisible cancer cells remain in the body. With each round of treatment, the tumour is more likely to become resistant to chemotherapy. Professor Ahmed's team is working to test if high grade serous ovarian cancer can evolve to become sensitive again. The team is also investigating how an enzyme called SIK2 helps ovarian cancer cells spread throughout the abdomen by relaying signals from fat cells in the omentum to the tumour.

    What's next?

    Professor Ahmed's team aims to use their new insights into ovarian cancer behaviour in order to develop new treatments that will stop the disease in its tracks and eliminate ovarian cancer cells that remain after treatment.

    Ahmed lab
  • Why are some tumours particularly aggressive?

    Professor Iain McNeish, Director, Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre

    All cancer cells contain specific mutations in their DNA, which cause the cells to grow uncontrollably. Around 20-25% of ovarian cancers contain mutations in a gene called PTEN; these tumours grow more rapidly and are less likely to be detected by the immune system. Professor Iain McNeish investigates why tumours with PTEN mutations avoid detection by the immune system.

    What's next?

    Professor McNeish aims to take his research to a clinical trial in women with PTEN-mutated ovarian cancer using drugs that are already available. If successful, these trials could lead to better survival for women with these cancers.

    Professor Iain McNeish
  • Why do some tumours become resistant to chemotherapy?

    Professor Bob Brown, Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre

    Understanding why tumours develop resistance to chemotherapy is essential as ovarian cancer recurs in 70-90% of cases. Professor Bob Brown studies how ovarian cancer tumours develop this resistance to treatment so we can find a way to prevent this from happening. His lab has already discovered the epigenetic changes that occur during can have many effects on the tumour, some of which could make the tumour more sensitive to new molecularly-targeted drugs or immune therapies.

    What's next?

    By examining epigenetics in recurring tumours, Professor Brown aims to identify biomarkers that could help women with ovarian cancer receive more personalised treatments, including new drugs via clinical trials.

    Bob Brown
  • What is the link between our genetics and risk of cancer?

    Dr Jonathan Krell and Dr James Flanagan, Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre

    Dr Jonathan Krell and Dr James Flanagan are investigating how changes to our genes can play a big part in our risk of developing cancer. By doing so, they hope to develop effective new ways to identify women at highest risk of ovarian cancer and prevent the disease occurring in the first place.

    What's next?

    Dr Krell is assessing how feasible it would be to implement a new genetic testing model that identifies and supports families at risk of ovarian cancer because of an inherited BRCA1/2 gene mutation. 

    Dr Flanagan's research focuses on the epigenetic reasons behind ovarian cancer risk. He aims to find out whether biological responses to specific lifestyle factors, such as taking the contraceptive pill, affect a woman's chance of developing ovarian cancer.

    James Flanagan Jonathan Krell