Topic status: In progress


Ovarian cancer is an insidious disease that typically afflicts women in their latter years and is particularly deadly because symptoms are not very specific, and no screening test is available. Consequently it is often detected at an advanced stage with a poor prognosis for the patient and is the leading cause of death and reduced quality of life of all gynaecological cancers. The extracellular matrix is a complex arrangement of macromolecules that is produced locally and has distinct tissue expression patterns forms a protein support for cells and tissues.

The interaction between cells and ECM occurs via transmembrane proteins called integrins. ECM-cell interactions affect cellular adhesion, migration and invasiveness. Evidence suggests that the expression of specific ECM proteins is important in the pathophysiology of cancer metastasis. Using a unique 3-dimensional (3D) model that mimics a critical stage in progression of ovarian cancer, this project aims to identify the composition of the ECM protein scaffold supporting tumour cells.

We hypothesise that the composition of ECM will have a role in the metastasis of ovarian cancer.

We aim to:

  • characterise the expression of ECM molecules produced by ovarian cancer cells in conditions that mimic the in vivo 3D condition (3D culture), in comparison to conventional 2D culture
  • identify differentially expressed integrins in 2D and 3D culture.

Research activities

The research activities are:

  • cell culture: 2D monlayer, 3D-suspension and/or 3D-matrices
  • immunohistochemistry and microscopy, Western immunoblot

Expected outcomes

This project will determine the influence of the cellular microenvironment on the expression of ECM and integrins by ovarian cancer cells. This information will further our understanding of the importance of ECM in ovarian cancer.

Duration of project

6 weeks; 1–21 Dec, 2011 and 9–29 Jan, 2012

Study level
Vacation research experience scholarship
Organisational unit

Science and Engineering Faculty

Research areas
Contact a supervisor for enquiries.