Posted 17 October 2023

Rising Star fellow Jian Kang

As a cancer biologist, Dr Jian Kang has a unique insight into the mechanics of one of the deadliest forms of the disease, ovarian cancer.

“Ever since I graduated with my PhD in 2011, I have been focussed on developing new therapies for cancer. My ultimate goal is to improve our understanding of the molecular basis of drug resistance in ovarian cancer,” says Jian. “Once we have that, we have the basis for effective treatments that will save lives.”

Recently awarded the Christine Martin Fellowship, funded by 5point Foundation, Jian’s research is laying the groundwork for potential new treatments.

“Less than half of women who find out that they have ovarian cancer today will be alive in five years,” she said.

This startling fact is mainly due to the tenacious nature of the disease which is resistant to most of the drugs commonly used to treat cancer.

“Cancer cells can evade the action of cancer therapy and keep growing by altering a process of how they build proteins,” explains Jian.

“This is called mRNA translation and understanding how ovarian cancer cells modify this has allowed us to develop a new drug that blocks this alteration.”

The new drug, also being tested by Jian’s colleague and lab head, Associate Professor Elaine Sanij, is showing the potential to be an effective new treatment for a range of cancers.

“It is still very early days in our testing. Clinical trials take a long time and go through a lot of different stages before a drug is made available in the clinic, but we are optimistic that this could lead to new treatments for ovarian cancer.”