Why do some ovarian cancer tumours become resistant to chemotherapy?

Dr Bob Brown

Lead researcher: Professor Bob Brown

Where: The Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre

Theme: Treatment

Project dates: August 2018 - August 2022


Chemotherapy is a very effective treatment for women with ovarian cancer when they are first diagnosed. However in 70-90% of cases the cancer will reoccur, often having developed a resistance to chemotherapy so that it no longer works. Understanding why this happens and finding a way to stop it is essential if we’re to make sure that women with recurrent ovarian cancer have better treatment options available to them.

Professor Bob Brown has been studying how recurrent ovarian cancer tumours develop resistance to chemotherapy to try to find a way to stop this from happening. His lab has already discovered that epigenetic changes that occur during chemotherapy can have many effects on the tumour – including switching off genes that are meant stop tumour growth.

He now believes that some of these changes can be used to our advantage to make the tumour more sensitive to new drugs or immune therapies. Professor Brown and his team will examine patterns in tumour samples from patients whose cancer has reoccurred and study whether new epigenetic treatments can prevent resistance from happening in the first place.

Ultimately Professor Brown aims to identify how new treatments for recurrent ovarian cancer can be developed so that patients receive the most effective treatments at the right time.

Where are we now?

Professor Brown and his team have been studying exactly where in the ovarian cancer cell to target with new epigenetic treatments to reverse treatment resistance. They’re now starting to develop and test these new treatments in the lab.