Caroline Ford, PhD
University of New South Wales
2019 James A. Harting Pilot Study Award
Research in Focus: Novel therapies to treat ovarian cancer
Shock and ROR! Inhibiting ovarian cancer metastasis with targeted therapies in an organotypic model of ovarian cancer
In order to improve survival in ovarian cancer, we need to further study the molecular changes at the root of the disease to identify key cellular pathways that are responsible for the start and progression of cancer. Dr. Ford and colleagues have recently identified two genes, ROR1 and ROR2 that are abnormally expressed at high levels in ovarian cancer. By silencing the genes, they can dramatically block ovarian cancer cell migration and invasion, key processes needed for cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body. Dr. Ford and colleagues have also shown that when cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy, targeting the ROR genes can re-sensitize them to the effects of chemotherapy drugs. ROR1 and ROR2 are not found in non-cancer cells so they are attractive targets for therapeutic interventions. Dr. Ford and colleagues will use a unique 3D model of ovarian cancer to determine the potential of ROR1 and ROR2 as cancer drug targets. They will target the RORs using two different approaches with the 3D model: 1) use nanoparticles to deliver gene silencing molecules and (2) use an antibody, called cirmtuzumab, which specifically targets ROR1 and has previously shown to be effective in other cancer types. A positive outcome from this study will progress much needed individualized therapy for ovarian cancer patients and increase survival.