Dr Melissa Pitman’s research | RAH Research Fund

Developing a novel treatment for ovarian cancer.

Dr Melissa Pitman, RAH Research Fund Florey Fellow. Head of Drug Discovery Unit, Molecular Signalling Laboratory, Centre for Cancer Biology

My interest in cancer was sparked early, during my undergraduate degree in Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology at Flinders University, where I studied a combination of computing, chemistry and biology.

The concept of cancer cells hijacking normal cells and causing them to grow uncontrollably was fascinating to me. I knew this was how I wanted to make a difference in the world.

We are developing a novel treatment for ovarian cancer called an inhibitor, a chemical that will block the SK1 protein so we can kill the cancer cells.

In the last five years, we have taken enormous steps forward in discovering a way to target SK1.

Click here to find out more about SK1…

When we combine chemotherapy and the SK1 inhibitor together, we see a significant response. The inhibitor weakens the cancer cells so they can no longer ignore the ‘death’ signals from the chemotherapy. A much greater percentage of cancer cells die.

Our research is showing that this treatment changes the behaviour of these tiny proteins.

We want to expand our research to enable us to edge closer to a cure. But we can’t do this without your support.

  1. We need to run more experiments in the laboratory.
    The more experiments we run, the greater chance we have of refining and improving our novel treatment. Some experiments need to be run up to 10 times in different circumstances and conditions to prove effectiveness.
  2. We need another full-time research assistant and lab technician.
    Qualified, specialist staff members who are experienced in this field are absolutely critical to the long-term success of our research.
  3. We need specialist equipment and chemicals.
    In order to optimise and test our inhibitor models, a range of equipment and complex chemicals are needed. The specialist nature of the work means these are very costly.

With new staff and equipment in place, we will commence further laboratory testing using tissue samples of individual ovarian cancer cells.

Each of these samples is so precious to me. I want to personally thank each and every person who has generously donated tissue to help our research.

Soon we will know whether the novel treatment can be taken to the next step to a clinical trial – leading to new hope for answers and treatment.

This research is critical to so many families across South Australia, waiting and hoping for a cure.

Please donate today.


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