Dialog Box

Research Grant Announcement

The OCRF supports four new exciting projects

The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) is pleased to announce its support of four significant research projects. The OCRF will solely fund two of these projects while also providing support and collaboration to two additional projects that are being funded by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The OCRF is committed to funding innovative research of the highest quality as assessed by our international panel of scientific experts and our consumer representatives. The OCRF fills an otherwise unmet need by funding projects that are in their initial stages of research, where data needs to be built and research further developed prior to the clinical-trial stage.

As there are multiple approaches to improving the accuracy of early detection screening and testing, the OCRF is pleased to be supporting two projects in this space. In funding these early-detection projects, alongside those investigating new and effective treatments and prevention, the OCRF takes a holistic approach to funding meaningful progress.

Exciting new research funded by the OCRF

The OCRF is pleased to be awarding funding to the below promising projects.

Professor Pradeep Tanwar from the University of Newcastle was awarded just over $595,000 toward his research that focuses on early detection.

Professor Pradeep Tanwar will lead a promising project that focuses on developing a novel biomarker into a blood test that can detect ovarian cancer in its earliest stages. The State of the Nation Research Audit, conducted by Insight Economics and commissioned by the OCRF in 2020, reviewed historic data and widely consulted clinicians and researchers. It found that a reliable and accurate early detection test could save 1.3 million lives over the next decade - so the OCRF is thrilled to be supporting Professor Tanwar’s research in this space. Read more about Professor Tanwar's research.

Associate Professor Stacey Edwards from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute was awarded $137,000.

The OCRF is proud to be funding the research of Associate Professor Stacey Edwards who will investigate the effectiveness of different treatment combinations. Associate Professor Edwards will investigate whether combining PARP inhibitors or chemotherapy with antisense oligonucleotides (an emerging area of drug development), would improve their effectiveness. If successful, this will be the first study to identify all molecules involved in drug resistance and assess the way that they function in tumours. These results will provide evidence that combined therapies could make initial treatment of patients more effective and reduce recurrence of ovarian cancer. Read more about Associate Professor Edwards' research.

Collaborative grants supported by the OCRF

The OCRF recognises the importance of collaboration to grow the pool for funds available for valuable research. In addition to funding two projects, the OCRF has also committed to closely collaborating with two teams that will be funded by the MRFF.

Associate Professor Carlos Salomon from the University of Queensland was awarded over $2million by the Medical Research Future Fund.

Associate Professor Salomon and his team previously undertook a discovery project that was funded by the OCRF, which identified a new type of test that showed promising results for identifying ovarian cancer in its early stages, including asymptomatic stages. This test is focused on identifying High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer which is responsible for most ovarian cancer mortality. The biomarkers identified were also associated with the extracellular signalling pathway, used by cancer cells to promote metastatic activity, which is important for understanding the way ovarian cancer spreads. Considering the support of the OCRF in the initial stages of this research, Associate Professor Salomon has named the central algorithm of his new project ‘OCRF-7’. Associate Professor Salomon and his team will now expand upon the initial promising results to determine if the test could be used for screening of the general population. Using the samples from the largest screening study to date, the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) the team will evaluate the performance of the new test against the CA125 biomarker and the Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm evaluation method that was used in the UKCTOCS trial. If successful, this project has the potential to detect ovarian cancer at its most curable stage.

Professor Elina Hypponen of the University of South Australia was awarded $1.3million by the Medical Research Future Fund.

Professor Hypponen aims to understand what causes ovarian cancer and how we can identify women at high risk. Her project will use a data-driven machine learning approach to map genetic and physical risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer. Machine-learning is a form of artificial intelligence that allows many factors to be considered simultaneously so that patterns of risk, that could lead to predicting ovarian cancer, can be uncovered. The data collected considers exposure factors including health, medication use, lifestyle, diet, environment and specific reproductive factors. These are considered in addition to body composition and genetic, metabolic and hormonal risk factors. The team will then assess which factors are deemed important for predicting ovarian cancer risk. This information will allow the team to characterise risk-factor profiles, which could identify women who are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer and prompt screening and early detection. The OCRF is delighted to be collaborating on this project that, with data from 273,000 women, is the first and largest assessment of the impact of individual exposures on the development of ovarian cancer. The novel approaches used in this study may be the key that unlocks new clues to the causes of ovarian cancer, so that new ways to prevent it can be investigated.

Why we need to act

The statistics for ovarian cancer remain frightening. Every day, four Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer; three will die from the disease. Unlike other cancers, there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer and because symptoms are vague, more than 75% of those diagnosed are already in the advanced stages of the disease.

Treatment for ovarian cancer is aggressive and most often consists of surgery, including the removal of ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus, followed by intensive chemotherapy. Though initially successful treatments, 9 out of 10 women will develop recurrent or drug resistant disease, many not surviving beyond 5 years.