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Identifying new lab techniques to speed up drug discovery for ovarian cancer

By Elisabeth Dunn

Elizabeth Dunn has been funded $50,000 to support her research.

Elisabeth Dunn, University of Canterbury (Phd scholarship)

Identifying new laboratory techniques to speed up drug discovery for ovarian cancer

Cancer cell lines are cancer are model systems using cells that have been derived from tumours. Given the heterogeneous nature of tumours that may arise from different origins there is no single generic cell line for a particular cancer. Thus, the use of different representative cell lines, with each cell line having a different genetic makeup. Cancer cell lines are the foundation on which most cancer treatments are developed, as they enable analysis of anti-cancer drug efficacy without any detriment to cancer patients.

However, most research groups within New Zealand have limited resources and only use a few cell lines to investigate treatment strategies (with a range of different physical and genetic features). This means that an effective treatment may be overlooked and resources wasted, due to testing on cell lines that do not have the correct genetic makeup.

For Elizabeth’s PhD scholarship, she will further analyse the genetic makeup of ovarian cancer cell lines. She will use ovarian cancer cell lines with different genetic make ups and analyse how they respond to novel treatments. She will then identify whether genetics-based selection of cell lines promotes discovery of effective drug combinations.

How will it help people affected by cancer?

If genetics-based selection of cell lines is established as an effective selection process, it may improve research efficiency, reduce cost and reduce the time it takes to develop novel treatment strategies for people with cancer.