Ovarian Cancer Translational Research Initiative

Co-leads

Clinical: Dr. Amit M. Oza, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM)
Scientific: Dr. Robert Rottapel, PM

Goal

The goal of the Ovarian Cancer TRI is to better understand how ovarian cancer develops, what causes resistance to current therapy and how ovarian cancer can be better targeted with new therapies.

Problem

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common type of cancer in Canadian women, with 2,800 women diagnosed each year and 1,750 dying from the disease. The most lethal type of ovarian cancer is High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer (HGSOC), which accounts for 80 per cent of ovarian cancer deaths. While there have been promising results in treating HGSOC using surgery and chemotherapy, cancer will ultimately return in three quarters of women because it has become resistant to treatment. Therapeutic options are currently limited and of limited efficacy.

As a result, survival rates for ovarian cancer are much lower than for other types of cancer such as prostate and breast, and outcomes have not improved measurably in 50 years. The ability to understand, measure and overcome treatment resistance is an urgent unmet clinical need for women with ovarian cancer.

Approach

The Ovarian Cancer TRI team brings together scientists and clinical researchers from across Ontario to work together to better understand how ovarian cells adapt to biological stress and how this leads to clonal cell outgrowth and treatment resistance. This new knowledge will be used deploy novel treatments to overcome treatment failure. The Ovarian Cancer TRI links preclinical work, clinical evaluation and biomarker validation with Ontario and Pan-Canadian clinical trials.

Founded on the understanding that HGSOC is a genomically unstable disease, characterized by a highly damaged and mutated genome, the TRI focuses on:

  1. Developing new therapeutic strategies that exploit the dysregulation of genome maintenance pathways.
  2. Examining adaptive pathways that are critical for tumour survival after initial treatment.
  3. Investigating whether epigenetic therapy can influence tumour immunogenicity and target cancer-initiating cells.

Patient impact

The Ovarian Cancer TRI will develop predictive biomarkers and advance better treatment strategies to make therapies more targeted, ultimately improving patient outcome. The TRI is improving understanding of the underlying biology of the disease, fuelling therapeutic innovation in a type of cancer that has not seen outcomes improve in 50 years and establishing new clinical trials that will better treat HGSOC. The project will have a direct and tangible clinical impact by optimizing patient management and treatment decisions with real-time genomic immunogenic information, which can be used dynamically to define and refine treatment.