Dr Marion Butler
Dr Marion Butler is a research group leader based in Maynooth University and her lab is working on advancing the research progress made on chemotherapy resistant Ovarian cancer. This Breakthrough-funded work is being carried out by Dr Devlin Wall-Coughlan, a postdoctoral researcher based in Dr Butler’s lab.
Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynaecological malignancy, with ~300,000 women diagnosed each year worldwide and approximately 400 women in Ireland. Ovarian cancer is the 4th most common female cancer in Ireland and around 300 women lose their lives each year from this devastating disease.
Ovarian cancer is typically diagnosed at a late stage, with 80% presenting at an advanced stage, as patients usually present with non-specific symptoms such as bloating and tiredness, which makes early-diagnosis difficult. Surgery and chemotherapy are the recommended treatments. For 70% of patients, the cancer returns, and the patient receives chemotherapy again. Eventually, the 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 in the clinic.
For this reason, we need to find new treatments for these patients that develop drug resistance. We found that drug resistant ovarian cancer cells, grow much slower when we block a small number of proteins from working. We know the identity of these proteins. We plan to measure the levels of these proteins in tumour biopsies taken from patients giving us more knowledge on disease progression in ovarian cancer.
To get closer to the clinic, we plan to do further tests using ovarian cancer cells in animal studies to determine whether blocking one of these proteins reduces tumour masses providing us with a guide as to how valuable it would be to target this protein when drug-resistance develops. Dr Devlin Wall-Coughlan