Professor Ahmed Ahmed and team
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Posted by Target Ovarian Cancer on Friday 2 March 2018

Innovative research funded by Target Ovarian Cancer has been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.1 We select and fund only research projects of the highest quality, which have the potential to improve the lives of women who have a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, or those who are at risk of developing the disease. It is only through the generous support of individuals, trusts and legacies that we can back the work of outstanding scientists and researchers from across the UK.

The challenge

Professor Ahmed Ahmed of the University of Oxford led this groundbreaking research to find ways of making paclitaxel chemotherapy more effective. Whilst many patients with ovarian cancer respond well to paclitaxel, about 60% do not. Overcoming such resistance to chemotherapy is a major challenge and is a key priority within Target Ovarian Cancer’s research strategy.


It has been shown previously that microtubules, which act like scaffolding within a cell, can influence how tumour cells respond to paclitaxel chemotherapy. Professor Ahmed’s team has been looking at how microtubules are involved in resistance to paclitaxel. Their goal has been to improve the effectiveness of paclitaxel by including other drugs that make cancer cells more susceptible to damage done by this type of chemotherapy.

Research Findings

The team has shown, using cell lines in the laboratory, how an enzyme called FER regulates the stability of microtubules in ovarian cancer cells. They have also shown that tumour cells can become more sensitive to paclitaxel when FER is prevented from working properly, by removing it or targeting it with a specific small molecule. These results are an important achievement, which could be translated to patients to develop more effective therapies.

Professor Ahmed said, “These results provide strong evidence that by targeting FER we can improve the effectiveness of paclitaxel in killing tumour cells. The small molecules that target FER could potentially be developed into new drugs for ovarian cancer, to enhance the effectiveness of paclitaxel treatment.”

Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, Annwen Jones, said, “We are delighted to see the results of this important project. Through our research, we seek to optimise existing treatments and develop more effective treatments for ovarian cancer, leading to improvements in overall survival. Groundbreaking research such as this is only possible thanks to the generous funding we receive from individuals, trusts and legacies. In order to improve the long-term survival of women with ovarian cancer, we desperately need to provide more support for medical research such as this.”

Find out more


[1] Tuning microtubule dynamics to enhance cancer therapy by modulating FER-mediated CRMP2 phosphorylation. Nature Communications (2018) 9:476