Each day in Australia, five women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and three will die from the disease.
It’s the most lethal gynaecological cancer, with over 70% of women already at an advanced stage by the time the cancer is detected.
Currently there is no early detection test but RMIT researchers are looking to change that, with the help of tiny but powerful biosensing devices, the size of a fingernail.
Nanobiotechnologist Dr Cesar Sanchez Huertas is part of the multi-disciplinary team recently awarded $1 million in funding to develop the technology and work towards a routine screening test for ovarian cancer.
As we mark Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Huertas explains the cutting-edge science behind the biosensors, his passion for translating research discoveries into real-world impact and shares the family experience that inspires and drives his work.
What makes you so passionate about helping improve ovarian cancer diagnosis and survival rates?
I learned about the struggles of ovarian cancer first-hand five years ago.
My aunt Rosi, my mum’s older sister, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer and had to undergo surgery to remove the tumour mass from her ovaries. She also went through a long and hard chemotherapy process to try to eliminate any traces of this cancer, which unfortunately had already spread to different parts of her body.
My aunt was a very strong woman and she didn’t stop fighting and kept smiling during this tough process. Unfortunately, the disease won three years ago and sadly we had to say goodbye to her.
By that time, I had already completed my PhD in ultrasensitive nanophotonic biosensor technologies for early cancer diagnosis and had moved to Australia, to continue creating this cutting-edge technology and make it more accessible to the public.
So, I made a promise to look for opportunities that could detect this cancer earlier to help women win this battle and make a real difference to the survival rates for ovarian cancer.