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Lead researcher: Professor Charlie Gourley

Location: University of Edinburgh

Research strand: Targeted treatments       

The main aim of this project is to develop new, more effective and targeted treatments for low grade serous ovarian cancer.

Low grade serous ovarian cancer

This type of ovarian cancer is less common than the high grade form, and it affects around 700 women each year in the UK. Whilst most cases of ovarian cancer occur in women of 60 years or more in age, low grade serous ovarian cancer tends to affect younger women – in their 40s – and is often resistant to chemotherapy. Since it is less common, much less research has been carried out on this type of ovarian cancer. This means that few treatment options exist and therefore there is an urgent need to develop new approaches.

Progress is being made to find new treatments for low grade serous ovarian cancer

The new project will build on the work of a landmark clinical trial in recurrent low grade serous ovarian cancer known as the LOGS trial, led by Professor Gourley and colleagues from the USA. Patients in this trial receiving a drug called trametinib (MEKINIST®) experienced a substantially improved response compared with standard chemotherapy treatment. It even reduced the chance of the cancer coming back again. It is hoped that the results from the LOGS trial could lead to trametinib becoming a new, targeted treatment for women with low-grade serous ovarian cancer.

How will our new project build on positive results from the clinical trial?

Professor Charlie Gourley is one of the world’s foremost ovarian cancer researchers and has significant expertise in studying low grade serous ovarian cancer. The results from the LOGS trial represent a huge step forward for women with low grade serous ovarian cancer, but it was clear that some people on the trial responded well to trametinib, while others did not. A key aim of our new research is to identify how the tumours differ in these two groups of women, and how this influences their response to treatment. This new knowledge will inform the development of more effective treatments, targeted to the specific type of tumour that each person has.

In our new project, Professor Gourley’s team will analyse tumour samples and data collected from the LOGS trial, combining this with information from hundreds of other patients, to understand low grade serous ovarian cancer better. The research will:

  • provide a better understanding of the genetic changes that contribute to this type of ovarian cancer;
  • understand which patients are more likely to respond to trametinib and who may benefit from other treatments;
  • identify women who might be at highest risk of their cancer coming back (recurrence);
  • find new treatment options by looking at the effectiveness of existing drugs on low grade ovarian cancer – drugs that are already used to treat other cancers and conditions. This is called repurposing or repositioning drugs.

This project began in 2020.

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