Ovarian cancer & chemoresistance

Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute scientists, Professor Nuzhat Ahmed, Professor George Kannourakis and PhD candidate Ruth Escalona have recently published research into Ovarian cancer chemoresistance- ‘Expression of TIMPs and MMPs in Ovarian Tumours, Ascites, Ascites-Derived Cells, and Cancer Cell Lines: Characteristic Modulatory Response Before and After Chemotherapy Treatment’ in Frontiers in Oncology.


Ovarian cancer occurs when cells in one or both the ovaries divide abnormally and spread to surrounding abdominal organs.  The main function of the ovaries is to produce eggs and reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian cancer is a terrible disease. 

In Australia, nearly 1042 women died of ovarian cancer in 2021, making up for 5% of new cancers diagnosed in women. The 5-year survival rate is 30-40%. Lack of early detection and chemo resistance makes this cancer difficult to treat.

For many ovarian cancer patients, treatment ceases to work as chemoresistance sets in. The high mortality rate of this disease is due to this resistance.

The mechanism of why this occurs is the focus of this research

In this publication, we have discovered a group of proteins that are involved in this mechanism of resistance called metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors (TIMPs). This is the first study that has analysed this mechanism in a range of ovarian cancer patient samples before and after chemotherapy treatment.

Currently there are no viable treatment options for chemo resistant OC patients.  This study has shown for the first time, that TIMPs and associated MMPs can be used as targets to prevent progression and circumvent chemoresistance in Ovarian cancer patients.