Dr Sarah McClelland – Preventing Chemotherapy Resistance in Ovarian Cancer

Many women with high grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) ovarian cancer relapse within a few months or years

Dr Sarah McClelland was awarded £134,193 to save the lives of thousands of women by preventing chemotherapy resistance in ovarian cancer.

Preventing Chemotherapy Resistance in Ovarian Cancer

Many women with high grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) ovarian cancer relapse within a few months or years. This results in a poor prognosis for this cancer type which affects thousands of women each year –  4,100 women died from ovarian cancer in 2013.

Dr McClelland’s team are investigating Chromosomal Instability –  a defect that involves loss or rearrangement of the cell’s genetic material. This trait is unique to cancer cells as normal cells in the body strictly maintain the correct number and structure of chromosomes. Chromosomal instability renders tumours more difficult to treat, but the reasons for this are currently poorly defined.

Chromosomal Instability

HGSC exhibits high rates of Chromosomal Instability. It is likely that chromosomal instability allows cells to quickly generate new abilities allowing for chemotherapy resistance but the question of whether limiting chromosomal instability could reduce the rate of developing chemotherapy resistance remains untested.

Dr McClelland’s said: “We’re in an ideal position to be able to test the idea that limiting chromosomal instability can prevent the development of chemotherapy resistance. Over the next two years we will test this hypothesis using cancer cell lines. Importantly we will also test whether this approach has the potential to be applied to patients in the future, by validating our experiments using patient samples.

“To do this we will take advantage of a valuable resource unique to high grade serous ovarian cancer – tumour cells isolated from ascites fluid, which collects in the abdominal cavity and is often drained during the disease course. This offers an opportunity to examine mechanisms driving genetic instability in HGSC, and to correlate features of this instability with patient information such as response to chemotherapy, and overall survival.”

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