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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer in Australia and, unlike many other cancers, survival has only slightly improved in recent decades. This multidisciplinary stream of research is supported by key collaborators and advisors from across the Daffodil Centre, including experts in biology and translational research, epidemiology, mathematical modelling, implementation science, health economics, statistics and key stakeholders, including community partners and patient advocates.

Group members: Professor Anna DeFazio, Dr Melissa Merritt, Professor Karen Canfell, Dr Michael Caruana, Dr Kirstie McLoughlin, Dr Nicola Meagher, Dr Saima Islam, Associate Professor Carolyn Nickson, Associate Professor Natalie Taylor, and ovarian cancer survivors and experienced consumer researchers Gillian Stannard and Jacinta Frawley Werger.

Together, the team is leading research to help inform policy and improve healthcare for women with, and at risk of developing, ovarian cancer. This work is made possible by funding from the Fussell Family Foundation and the US Department of Defense, Ovarian Cancer Research Program, Ovarian Cancer Academy – Early Career Investigator Award.

Roadmap for optimal clinical pathways

Following the approach used in other research programs within the Daffodil Centre, the team is developing an Ovarian Cancer Roadmap, which will outline a focused, evidence-based approach to reducing the burden of ovarian cancer. The roadmap considers the different subtypes of ovarian cancer and the need for tailored approaches to prevention, early detection and treatment. The roadmap will help guide the research priorities, aiming to use the best available evidence to reach consensus on optimal clinical pathways for the prevention, early detection, and management of ovarian cancer.

Identifying risk-appropriate genetic testing referral pathways

Using implementation science approaches, the team is conducting a process mapping investigation to understand the current referral processes for genetic testing and counselling for women with ovarian cancer and their families, to demonstrate variation that may exist between settings, and identify any positive or negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on referral processes. The team is also exploring how eligibility criteria, service availability, and referral pathways may differ based on regionality or private health insurance status.

Modelling the future of ovarian cancer

The team is developing an innovative predictive modelling platform, called Policy1–Ovary. This highly sophisticated tool is being used to assess the potential impact of different interventions for ovarian cancer, such as improvements to diagnostic pathways or treatment tools and interventions. Specific projects include:

  • The International Partnership for Resilience in Cancer Systems (I-PARCS) program is focusing on ovarian and other cancers to determine how pathways to diagnosis may be impacted by healthcare disruptions due to Covid or other factors.
  • Focusing on racial and ethnic differences and how this could impact future incidence rates and diagnostic pathways for ovarian cancer in Australia
Tertiary prevention

Our objective is to improve the health of women diagnosed with gynecologic cancers by studying modifiable factors that may influence survival following a cancer diagnosis. Current projects focus on:

  • how the use of pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis aspirin and non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use may influence survival among ovarian cancer patients in the context of patient characteristics and tumour immune marker profiles. This project uses the exceptional resources in the Ovarian Cancer Cohort Consortium (OC3).
  • the impact of demographic factors (country of birth, socioeconomic status and regionality) on ovarian cancer overall survival using NSW Health data from the Enduring Cancer Data Linkage (CanDLe), an initiative of the Cancer Institute NSW
Primary prevention

Our research utilizes epidemiological studies to evaluate risk factors for ovarian and also endometrial cancers in order to develop better strategies for their prevention. Current studies are focused on:

  • understanding racial and ethnic differences in ovarian cancer risk factors using international ovarian cancer consortia datasets [Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC), Ovarian Cancer Cohort Consortium (OC3)].

Research Team

Dr Melissa A. Merritt

Stream Co-Lead, Ovarian Cancer
Professor Anna DeFazio

Professor Anna DeFazio

Sydney West Chair in Translational Cancer Research, University of Sydney, Westmead Clinical School; Department of Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, The Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Professor Anna DeFazio

Sydney West Chair in Translational Cancer Research, University of Sydney, Westmead Clinical School; Department of Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, The Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Dr Saima Islam

Research Fellow

Dr Kirstie McLoughlin

Research Fellow

Dr Nicola Meagher

Research Fellow

Dr Melissa A. Merritt

Stream Co-Lead, Ovarian Cancer

Dr Lara Petelin

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

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