Investigation of novel drugs in Chemotherapy-resistant Ovarian Cancer

Dr Marion Butler is a research group leader based in Maynooth University and her key research priority is to advance the research progress made on Ovarian Cancer. BCR has awarded Dr Butler a one-year research project grant focused on Ovarian cancer, and Devlin Wall-Coughlan, who recently completed his PhD in Dr Butler’s lab, has been appointed to this BCR funded position.

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological cancer, with ~300,000 women diagnosed each year worldwide and over 360 women in Ireland. Ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed at a late stage, with 80% presenting at an advanced stage. Treatment involves major surgery and chemotherapy. For 70% of patients, the cancer returns, and the patient receives the same chemotherapy drug again. Eventually, chemotherapy stops killing the cancer cells and this is called ‘drug resistance.’ These patients then face treatment with other drugs which have proven less successful. For this reason, we need to find new treatments for Ovarian cancer patients.

Dr Butler and her team have found that ovarian cancer cells grow much slower when they use a drug that stops certain proteins from working in the cancer cells. Importantly, this drug also reduces the growth of ‘drug resistant’ ovarian cancer cells. This drug has not been tested on any cancer to date. Dr Butler plans to test whether targeting these proteins reduces the growth of chemotherapy-resistant ovarian cancer cells and to also understand how this drug is working to reduce the growth of ovarian cancer cells.

To understand more about the biology of this disease, which is key to the introduction of successful drugs, Dr Butler’s team will measure the levels of these proteins in tumour biopsies taken from Ovarian cancer patients. This finding will be hugely important as it will provide us with the clinical rationale to focus research on these proteins with the potential to develop new drug treatments in the future for Ovarian cancer.

Start year
Department of Biology, Maynooth University
Devlin Wall Coughlan
Breakthrough Project Grant

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