Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute

Institute researcher A/Prof Alexander Dobrovic has played a key role in a study that reveals a way to identify patients better suited to certain types of ovarian cancer care.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, adds to a growing and vital ‘checklist’ helping researchers to match ovarian cancer patients with the right therapy for their cancer.

A/Prof Dobrovic’s lab worked on the study with Prof Clare Scott, Dr Matthew Wakefield, Dr Olga Kondrashova and Dr Monique Topp from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

A/Prof Dobrovic said that targeted treatment is crucial for patient survival rates.

“Ovarian cancer survival rates have not improved significantly in the past thirty years,” he said.

“Our study is an important breakthrough in furthering more personalised care and better matching patients with the right care for their cancer.”

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute Scientific Director, Prof Matthias Ernst said the study demonstrates the important role the Institute plays in the wider research community.

“The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute works closely with partners like Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and this type of collaboration is vital in solving the complex challenge posed by ovarian cancer.”

The study promises to benefit women with ovarian cancer who are often treated with drugs called PARP inhibitors. Unfortunately, not all patients respond to the treatment, and until now no one knew why. The study identifies the subtle epigenetic differences between patients who respond to treatment with PARP inhibitors, and those who do not. This means doctors will be able to better match patients with the right care for their cancer, and spare them treatment with PARP inhibitor drugs if they won’t work. A/Prof Dobrovic’s studies were funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation as it is likely that this work can be extended to breast cancer patients as well. This is being tested in a Cancer Australia funded clinical trial called EMBRACE.