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Baylor Lands $1.4M for Early Ovarian Cancer Detection

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Two Baylor College of Medicine scientists have netted a total of $1.4 million from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for projects related to the early detection of ovarian cancer.

One of the new three-year research projects delves into the genetics involved in the development of the disease and the other explores the link between endometriosis and clear cell ovarian cancer.

Martin Matzuk, a BCM professor of pathology and immunology, has won $900,000 for a study that could lead to the development of sensitive and specific ovarian cancer screening tests.

“The goal of our team is to develop integrated screening assays that make use of the most current biomarker technology to detect and distinguish ovarian cancers at the earliest stages of development,” said Matzuk.

His research will consist of three projects. One effort will focus on using a custom mouse model that develops ovarian cancer in a similar way to human women to discover early protein biomarkers for the disease. Matzuk's team also will aim to define all the proteins and variants that are secreted from ovarian cancers that could be used as blood biomarkers. Another effort involves a partnership with researchers at Georgia Tech to identify metabolic changes that occur in the blood when women develop ovarian cancer in order to try to distinguish aggressive forms of the disease.

The other OCRF award went to Shannon Hawkins, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at BCM, who received a $450,000 Liz Tilberis Scholar Award to study the link between endometriosis and clear cell ovarian cancer.

Her project will study why some women with endometriosis later develop clear cell ovarian cancer. Women with endometriosis-associated ovarian cancer have a better prognosis than women without endometriosis, Hawkins said.

The work will focus on the ARiD1A gene, which could be involved in the transformation from endometriosis cells to ovarian cancer cells. Her team will work in cell cultures to determine if ARID1A leads to increased growth of cancer cells because of interaction with cancer genes. To do this, her lab will create a mouse model to mimic the low levels of ARID1A to find out how early tumors form and to study possible therapies.

“I hope this research will result in new, individualized methods of treating ovarian cancer and allow doctors to test patients with endometriosis before it progresses further,” added Hawkins.

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