Outsmarting Ovarian Cancer

Through ground-breaking discoveries in the lab and in the clinic, Professor Clare Scott is working to improve treatment outcomes for one of the most deadly cancers affecting Australian women.

Every day, four Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Whilst survival has increased significantly in the past few decades, it is still a major cause of death amongst women.

Ovarian cancer is a particularly tricky condition. With no screening tools yet available, most cases of ovarian cancer have already spread beyond the ovary before they are found. It’s also tough to treat, frequently not responding or becoming resistant to the treatments that are currently available.

As a Medical Oncologist, Professor Clare Scott has guided many women and their families through the challenges posed by ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment. These experiences have given her the drive to establish a world leading research program that aims to develop better ways of finding and treating ovarian cancer.

As little as ten years ago, ovarian cancer was a death sentence. Today survivorship is starting to improve due, in part, to our ability to better identify disease sub-types and implement appropriate treatment early on.

In recognition of her potential leadership and promise in this field, Professor Scott was awarded a five year Cancer Council Sir Edward Dunlop Research Fellowship in 2012. This highly prestigious grant enabled her to build a large research program at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne and achieve a number of ground breaking discoveries.

Professor Scott is using cutting edge technology to identify the different forms of ovarian cancer and gain an understanding of how they respond to different treatments. She is then using that understanding to match patients with the most effective treatment strategy.

I have set up my lab to look at the use of new therapies in ovarian cancer, because I have seen extraordinary responses happen in my clinic. I want to understand how it can work for more women.

Professor Scott is also leading a clinical trial of an innovative new immune combination therapy designed to increase the proportion of women for whom it should be successful. This therapy works by activating the patient’s own immune system to overcome cancer cells that have been weakened by treatment.

I have seen some incredible responses by individual women when they have received the right drugs. I’ve seen women go into complete remission from one of our clinical trial treatments.

Excitingly, the research outcomes generated by her work in ovarian cancer are now being translated across to other conditions, particularly rare cancers. For Cancer Council, supporting researchers like Professor Clare Scott is a major step towards our vision of a cancer free future.

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