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Developing a new treatment for ovarian cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Alice Soragni
  • Institution: University of California, Los Angeles, USA
  • Award Amount: £196,426 for 3 years from 1 August 2016
  • Cancer Type: Ovarian Cancer
Developing a new treatment for ovarian cancer
Dr Alice Soragni and her team in the US are testing a new drug which could help treat ovarian cancer.

Around 20 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the UK every day. The majority of women are diagnosed with an aggressive, hard to treat form of the disease called high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC). With this type of cancer, as with many other tumours, an important cancer-protecting protein called p53 has been deactivated. p53 is often called ‘the guardian of the genome’ for its important role in protecting DNA and stopping normal cells from transforming into cancer cells.

Mutations are a very common cause of p53 deactivation in HGSOC. The mutations can cause p53 proteins to clump together, which prevents p53 from working correctly, and favours cancer progression.

Dr Soragni has developed a new prototype drug, ReACp53, which stops p53 proteins sticking together and helps them stay functional.

“Our experimental data so far suggest this new type of drug might help reactivate p53 function and eliminate cancer cells,” explains Dr Soragni. “We now want to test if ReACp53 might be effective against the very first cells which initiate cancer in the body, called cancer stem cells.”

Cancer stem cells are usually resistant to chemotherapy. They can divide and grow into more cancer cells indefinitely, and are involved in cancer initiation, recurrence after treatment, and spreading to distant parts of the body (metastasis).

“In this project we will test ReACp53 in combination with standard chemotherapy drugs or other novel drugs in the lab to find out how to make this new therapy as effective as possible,” says Dr Soragni.

“Unfortunately the majority of women diagnosed with this aggressive cancer still succumb to the disease. The support of the Worldwide Cancer Research grant will be instrumental in helping us develop ReACp53 into a new approach for the treatment of HGSOC.”

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