A £2.6m research project aims to improve survival rates for one of the deadliest forms of cancer for women.
Ovarian cancer is the UK’s sixth most common type, with 7,000 new cases a year and only 5% of those with advanced forms living for five years.
Incidences are projected to rise by 15% in the next 16 years if there are no significant developments in treatment.
A Swansea University-led project will explore epigenetics – turning genes “on or off” – as an avenue for treatment.
“Epigenetics involves chemical changes to the DNA and associated proteins that can lead to genes being turned on or off,” explained Dr Lewis Francis, one of the lead researchers.
“In some cases, this can go wrong and lead to disease.”
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Work will look to develop drugs to control epigenetic signals, targeting them specifically to ovarian cancer cells.
The Cluster for Epigenomic and Antibody Drug Conjugate Therapeutics (CEAT) project has been awarded £1.2m by the European Regional Development Fund via the Welsh Government.
“Ovarian cancer is often associated with late diagnosis and poor prognosis meaning new and effective treatment measures are vital,” added Dr Deyarina Gonzalez of Swansea University’s medical school.
“The launch of the CEAT project provides an important step in tackling this problem by developing treatments designed to target ovarian cancer cells specifically, sparing the surrounding tissues and limiting the harsh side-effects often associated with chemotherapy.”
Two-thirds of women in the UK with ovarian cancer are only diagnosed once the disease has already spread, making it harder to treat.
Eleven women die every day from the condition.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
- Persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
- Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
- Pelvic or abdominal pain (tummy and below)
- Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)
- Changes in bowel habit (eg diarrhoea or constipation)
- Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Any bleeding after the menopause should always be investigated by a GP