The University of Newcastle, Australia

Repurposing existing drugs to tackle ovarian cancer

Friday, 8 May 2020

To mark World Ovarian Cancer Day, the Australian Government has announced a $16.2 million investment in eight research projects to beat the disease.

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden, Professor Jennifer Martin, Dr Michelle Wong-Brown and Dr Penny Reeves from the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute have successfully been awarded $2.69 million for their Australian Program for Drug-repurposing for Treatment-resistant Ovarian Cancer.

The funding was been enthusiastically received by Associate Professor Bowden, who has vowed to deliver better outcomes for women with ovarian cancer.

“One of the reasons that so many women with ovarian cancer have such a poor prognosis is that they develop resistance to traditional treatments for ovarian cancer,” Professor Bowden said.

“Working with ovarian cancer advocate Jill Emberson, who sadly passed away from the disease in December last year, I vowed to continue her legacy and find treatment options for women with treatment-resistant ovarian cancer, so they never have to hear ‘there is nothing more we can do’."

Working with Professor Jennifer Martin, Associate Professor Bowden set up the Centre for Drug Repurposing and Medicines Research with the aim of taking existing drugs, that are already proven safe and effective, and applying them to different diseases.

“We’ve worked on small studies that are already showing great promise in this area,” Associate Professor Bowden said.

“This funding will now allow us to work on a nationally and globally collaborative project that will use artificial intelligence to help us narrow down drugs which may be able to be used in treating ovarian cancer, and to start concurrent trials to assess their effectiveness in fighting the disease.

“I am so grateful for this funding that will allow us to deliver larger-scale research to benefit our communities. For years I’ve received funding from a range of local groups and people which has allowed me to develop my research to this point.”

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden is the recipient of the Vanessa McGuigan HMRI Ovarian Cancer Research Fellowship, and her work has been funded over the years by many local groups including Oxfords Ladies Hockey Club, Maitland Cancer Appeal, the Richards Family and SRI corporation and Stop Ovarian Cancer.

In Jill Emberson’s memory, donations are also being received to fund a PhD Scholarship to help support this vital work.

“Research is a time-consuming and costly process. I’m grateful for every donation we receive, every dollar makes a difference. Breast Cancer patients are now in a much better position thanks to well-funded research and support services. With continued support, I am hopeful that will soon be able to say the same for ovarian cancer patients,” she said.

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