Dr Rachel Pounds – Chemotherapy Resistance in Ovarian Tumours

The majority of patients with ovarian cancer will suffer a recurrence of the disease within 2 years.

Dr Rachel Pounds and her team at the University of Birmingham aim to improve the treatment outcome and survival of patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

The Problem: Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death from cancer amongst women. Although 80% of patients initially respond to chemotherapy, the majority will develop resistance to currently available treatment options and suffer a recurrence of the disease within two years. Why women develop a drug resistance is not fully understood.

Sadly, only half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are alive after 12 months. Two thirds of women die within 18 months of their diagnosis. Therefore, understanding more about drug resistance and identifying new treatments is critically.

The Project

Over the course of 12 months, Dr Pound’s team will analyse individual cells within ovarian tumour biopsies using a new technology, termed Drop-Seq. This will allow them to study the mechanisms involved in the development of drug resistance in ovarian cancer. Their research will help specialists understand more about the environment that supports cancer growth and the changes that occur in tumour cells during chemotherapy.

This project will help specialist Doctors and Scientists understand more about the development of resistance to chemotherapy in ovarian cancer.

Dr Pound explained the procedure for this project: “We plan to grow the ovarian cancer tissue in our laboratory at the University of Birmingham, before splitting this tissue into millions of individual cells.

“Using the latest technology and by performing complex gene analysis, we will evaluate individual cells within the cancer tissue and in the surrounding tissue that supports cancer growth. We aim to identify the cancer cells that can survive chemotherapy treatment and the specific genes associated with this drug resistance.

“The detection of the specific chemotherapy-resistant cells will enable us to explore if new drugs can be used to target these cells, helping to develop a personalised therapy for patients. This has the potential to delay or prevent disease recurrence.”

Ultimately, this project will lay the foundation for new targeted therapies, prolonging survival in patients with the disease.