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Breakthrough Ovarian Cancer Research

Posted on: 04 May 2016

Breakthrough Ovarian Cancer Research
Breakthrough Cancer Research funds research at the Cork Cancer Research Centre with most of this research aimed at poor prognosis cancers, including ovarian cancer. The appointment of the Brid Carr Ovarian Cancer Research Scholarship in 2016 will further enhance the potential of our research into new treatments in this area.  The two areas of research which are currently investigating ovarian cancer; Autophagy and Bacterial Gene Therapy.


Our Autophagy team led by Dr Sharon McKenna is looking into ovarian cancer.Ovarian cancer remains the leading cause of death among gynaecologic malignancies and fifth leading cause of death among all cancers in women. Late diagnosis is common with 75% of ovarian cancer cases presenting at an advanced stage. Most ovarian cancer patients respond favourably to initial chemotherapy. Many will however develop recurrent cancer within 12-18 months and this is often very resistant to the original chemotherapy. Due to the poor survival of women at this stage, understanding the mechanisms contributing to chemo-resistance and improved therapeutic approaches are urgently needed.

The research team at CCRC have already demonstrated the importance of process called autophagy in chemo-resistance. Autophagy is an evolutionary conserved catabolic process through which a cell actively degrades and recycles its own contents. This enables the cancer cell to adapt to any stress that it encounters. It can influence drug resistance, metabolism and immune responses. The research team at CCRC has shown that modulation of this process can chemo-sensitise cancer cells and induce tumour regression (Autophagy 2011 May;7(5):509-24. PMID:21325880; PLoS One. 2015 Aug 6;10(8) PMID:26248051). Current research is aimed at understanding how best to modulate autophagy and develop better treatment strategies for recurrent ovarian cancer.

Bacteria & Ovarian Cancer:

The Microbes & Cancer team in our research centre is led by Dr Mark Tangney. This lab was the first in the world to discover that cancer patients’ tumours (ovarian and breast) regularly contain bacteria of different types.

Having identified this, the goal of our research is to

- > Examine what bacteria are doing in patients' tumours -e.g are different bacteria affecting tumour growth or therapy

- > Exploit the ability of bacteria to grow in tumours, to deliver treatments exclusively to tumours. We have shown that probiotic bacteria can grow in ovarian tumours and ascites (the fluid build-up in the abdomen unfortunately frequently associated with ovarian cancer) and successfully deliver therapy locally to fight the cancer, with no toxicity elsewhere in the body.

From our research centre, we collaborate with various laboratories and hospitals around the world on this work, and have received much international interest to date (e.g. reported in New Scientist magazine - ‘Ending Cancer: The 5 most promising approaches’. New Scientist, 2012, pp. 38-41.)

In Ireland, the Tangney lab forms part of “Innovation”, the Irish National Network for Ovarian Cancer Collaboration

To help us continue our research into ovarian cancer please click here.

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