New study uncovers hope for those with ovarian cancer

Thousands of Canadian women are actively living with ovarian cancer, and it has been estimated that this year, 2,800 more will be newly diagnosed with the disease. Unfortunately, although this affliction continues to be one of the most serious women’s cancers, the medical community is extremely deficient in reliable early detection tests and effective treatment options for it.

Recently, however, scientists at the Lawson Research Institute in London, Ontario have uncovered an important new target for ovarian cancer therapy. This study completely contradicts contemporary research, suggesting that molecule LKB1 –which was previously identified as a helpful agent in fighting this type of cancer – actually plays a large part in the promotion and survival of the disease.

“Previous studies stated that LKB1 was a tumour suppressor in ovarian cancer, meaning that tumour cells need to get rid of LKB1 to cause cancer,” says Dr. Trevor Shepherd, a scientist at the Lawson Institute. “Our work is in direct conflict with these studies, because we definitively show that ovarian cancer cells still have LKB1 and that this molecule allows ovarian cancer spheroids to change their metabolism, promote tumour cell survival and make them more resistant to chemotherapy.”

By refuting these previous studies, Dr. Shepherd and his team have uncovered hopeful new information for future treatment.  “There are currently no therapies or drugs that target LKB1,” states Dr. Shepherd. “Based on these findings, our lab is exploring several different strategies to understand and target LKB1 and its related molecules in ovarian cancer spheroids … [we are] developing the essential pre-clinical models to see if this can be translated to ovarian cancer patients.”

Dr. Shepherd is one of only a few scientists across Canada solely dedicated to finding a cure for ovarian cancer. This new study, “Intact LKB1 activity is required for survival of dormant cancer spheroids” was published in the June 5 online edition of Oncotarget.