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Unearthing clues to surviving ovarian cancer

29 August, 2012

Researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have begun Australia’s first study into lifestyle factors that may improve survival rates and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer.

The Ovarian Cancer Prognosis and Lifestyle study – or OPAL – is recruiting 1200 women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer, over the next three years.

Associate Professor Penny Webb, who heads QIMR’s Gynaecological Cancers Group, said the team hoped OPAL would provide advice for women about what lifestyle changes they should make after diagnosis.

“We are trying to answer the question that almost every woman with ovarian cancer asks: What can I do to help beat this disease?” Dr Webb said.

More than 1200 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Only 40 per cent survive more than five years.

“We will be asking women about things like their diet, how much exercise they take, their alcohol intake, whether they smoke, and what medications they take,” Dr Webb said.

“We are obviously interested in survival outcomes but also quality of life, particularly during chemotherapy. Toxicity can be a big problem, often requiring drug doses to be reduced, or treatment to be delayed, and this may reduce its efficacy.

“We hope to identify things that a woman could do to help her get through treatment more easily.”

The OPAL team will also collect blood samples, for future studies into how genetic factors might influence a woman’s outcome, or how she responds to chemotherapy drugs.

The five-year study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and being conducted by QIMR in collaboration with scientists and doctors at the major treatment centres across Australia .

Source: Queensland Institute of Medical Research

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