BRISBANE Jan 29 AAP - Queensland researchers believe they have unlocked the key to fighting the deadliest form of ovarian cancer that is immune to chemotherapy.
They have identified two enzymes that make tumour cells resistant to chemotherapy and have developed a drug that inhibits them.
While chemotherapy often works initially, this form of cancer spreads rapidly through the abdominal cavity and quickly becomes immune to treatment.
Queensland University of Technology professor Judith Clements says the combination of the new inhibitor and chemotherapy should be more effective than present treatments.
In tests the drug pulls apart clumped cancer cells but it is unknown how it will work on humans.
The inhibitor would have to work well in animals before human testing is considered.
"This inhibitor works well in test tubes but it doesn't actually work in the animal models," Prof Clements said.
Prof Clements and her team are working with 3D modelling that enables them to better understand how the cancer cells multiply and survive in abdomen fluid and why the cells are resistant to chemotherapy.
Only a few groups worldwide use 3D models to research ovarian cancer.
The research, at Brisbane's Translational Research Institute, will receive $200,000 from Cancer Council Queensland during the next two years.
Cancel Council spokeswoman Katie Clift says the research is important given the poor survival rates of women diagnosed with aggressive ovarian cancer.
Every year in Queensland about 250 women are diagnosed and about 140 die from the disease.
"And in Australia less than half of all those diagnosed will be alive within five years," Ms Clift said.
Only 39 per cent survive more than five years after their diagnosis if the cancer has spread to surrounding tissue or organs.
Prof Clements says researchers will examine if the drug is relevant for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.