The Australian Ovarian Cancer Study (AOCS) is leading the global effort against the deadly disease with more than 2000 bio specimens donated by Australian women linked to more advances in ovarian cancer research in the past five years than the previous two decades.

The AOCS, a bio-specimen bank, has enabled hundreds of ovarian cancer researchers from across Australia and internationally to address clinically important questions about the causes and treatment of ovarian cancer by providing access to DNA, RNA, plasma, serum, and tumour tissue, as well as matched clinical and epidemiological data.

Recent outcomes from the AOCS are enabling researchers, for the first time in the history of ovarian cancer research, to close in on a cure for the disease, with Australia at the forefront.

The AOCS has led to a number of key advances in the understanding of ovarian cancer and trials including:

  • The way that ovarian cancer is diagnosed and assigned different pathological types.
  • Understanding the biology of ovarian cancer has resulted in the development of more personalised treatments for women living with ovarian cancer and has improved survival rates.
  • The discovery of how resistance of tumours to chemotherapy evolves over time. Enabling clinicians to adapt treatments for women living with ovarian cancer to prolong the period of remission and tackle the emergence of drug resistance.
  • A greater understanding of genetics and ovarian cancer. Pioneering changes in patient eligibility for genetic testing so that more women are aware of their genetic predisposition to the disease and can alert their family members of hereditary risk.

A greater understanding of the impact of PARP inhibitors in combating high-grade serous cancer. PARP inhibitors are a new class of anti-cancer drug, the most significant new drug to be made available on the PBS. This drug has proven to delay disease recurrence while preserving a good quality of life for women with advanced ovarian cancer.

The AOCS has enabled more detailed research of the molecular structure of ovarian cancer to improve how the disease is treated. Understanding ovarian cancer is not just one disease but a collection of diseases with different characteristics, behaviours and structures has assisted the design of clinical trials to support improved survival outcomes.

Until recently, there had been few major developments in ovarian cancer research since the 1970s. The time between new discoveries is now becoming shorter and the speed at which this is happening leaves the research community more confident that we are at a tipping point of a major breakthrough.

AOCS has been accessed by 120 approved national and international projects with significant clinical trials currently underway in Australia, Singapore and the United States.

A total of 2456 women with ovarian cancer from all Australian states have consented to take part in the AOCS. The bio-specimens are stored at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.