In 2017, Dr Dane Cheasley BBiolSc (hons), PhD (left above) was awarded the AGCF and Way In Network Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Award. His project hoped to fill in one of the gaps in the current treatment of ovarian cancer. Despite the fact that 200,000 women are diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer world-wide annually and only approximately 40% survive five years, ovarian cancer has been treated as a single disease.
It is now known that there are multiple distinct subtypes of ovarian cancer, and each subtype has a different genetic profile. One of the less common subtypes is low-grade serous carcinoma, which is particularly common in young women.
The challenge with low-grade serous carcinoma is that it’s considered ‘rare’ as it makes up only 8% of ovarian cancers diagnosed worldwide. However this still accounts for over 20,000 diagnoses – a staggering amount. Unfortunately, this cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage and is difficult to treat because it is usually resistant to chemotherapy.
Dr Cheasley’s research focused on detecting genetic commonalities between these patients in order to develop new gene (or targeted) therapies. With the help of the AGCF and Way in Network funding, Dr Cheasley was able to travel to Edinburgh and Canada and establish connections with people doing similar research into rare ovarian cancers. This meant he could collaborate to amass samples and findings. With an international team in place, he was able to amass the largest sample base of low-grade cancerous tissues for genetic research in the world.
“We amassed the largest sample base of low-grade serous cancerous tissues, for genetic research, in the world. ”
The data produced from these samples has already provided a number of insights. Particularly that there are already drugs out there that target these genetic aberrations. Theoretically, 90% of patients could be targeted with drugs already FDA-approved. Dr Cheasley hopes to follow this line of research and is currently writing publications and grants. The genetic research samples that Dr Cheasley has amassed can also be used for other projects, hypothesis and aims.
For Dr Dane Cheasley, he believes that “being in science is the best job in the world. There’s not many jobs you can rock up to work and be surrounded by the smartest people in Australia, and your job is to solve complex biological problems using your brain. What’s cool about cancer research is that every day, your data tells you something new about the human body that no one has ever known before.” The Australian Gynaecological Cancer Foundation hopes to continue to fund brilliant minds like Dr Cheasley. This kind of research will save lives.