Understanding the cause of granulosa cell tumours of the ovary

Lead researcher

Professor Peter Fuller

Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research

Years funded

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common malignancies affecting the female reproductive system. Granulosa cell tumours (GCT) of the ovary arise from the granulosa cells of the ovarian follicle and produce the hormones inhibin and estrogen.

Although they are often relatively slowly growing, late recurrences are often fatal. It is currently not known what causes these tumours. These studies will identify the genetic changes which lead to the development of the cancers. To assist this molecular analysis, we use two ovarian cell lines in culture that have many of the features of the primary tumours including inhibin secretion.

Our group has identified abnormalities in 2 molecular pathways which normally, in response to hormones, promote growth of granulosa cells. Both pathways are active in the absence of normal stimuli; the cause of this inappropriate activation is being sought.

Candidate genes, in which mutations may lie, have been targeted for further characterisation. Other growth promoting pathways will also be analysed. Similarly, we have evidence of genetic change leading to loss of an inhibiting signal; this requires confirmation and full characterisation.

Two drugs that are currently in clinical trials for other tumours will be tested against the cell lines. We anticipate that identification of the molecular events that cause GCT will enable improvements in prognostication i.e. prediction of which tumour is prone to late relapse and which is not. It should also help to design appropriate, specific treatments.


This study aims to identify the cause of a specific type of ovarian cancer, granulosa cell tumours. Understanding the molecular causes will aid in the development of specific treatments.


$70,000 per annum