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Ovarian cancer: what is it and how can we beat it?

Mara Artibani


Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Cancer Stem Cells

  • Senior Postdoc of the Ovarian Cancer Cell Laboratory
  • Lecturer in Biology (Jesus College)
  • Module Leader for Reproductive Science (Graduate Entry Medicine Course)

Ovarian Cancer Research

Worldwide, every two minutes, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and this disease causes more than 4000 deaths each year in the UK alone.
The high mortality of this cancer is due to many factors: firstly, to the lack of efficient screening tests; secondly, to the fact that its initial vague symptoms are easily mistaken for less severe conditions, leading to late diagnosis. Lastly, despite a good initial response to treatment, around 80% of women will relapse within 18 months and develop resistance to chemotherapy.
Therefore, the key to beating this deadly disease revolves around two main aspects: achieving earlier detection and preventing recurrences.

My ongoing work focuses on Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) in High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer (Artibani et al., JCI Insight 2021). In particular, I am interested in targeting the metabolic vulnerabilities of MRD cells in order to avoid, or at least delay, relapse.

I am also investigating potential biomarkers that could be used to develop non invasive screening tests for the early detection of ovarian cancer (Hellner et al., EBioMedicine 2016).


In cancer research, understanding the biology of the tissue of origin is extremely important and for ovarian cancer this means focusing on the fallopian tube. Therefore, I am helping study the genomic and transcriptomic complexities of oviduct biology hoping that it will take us a step closer to developing efficient screening tools (Hu, Artibani et al., Cancer Cell 2020).

I am also fascinated by the similarities between early embryo development and tumourigenesis and I actively collaborate with developmental biologists (Williams et al., Development 2018).