Dana-Farber Receives $900,000 Grant to Research Ovarian Cancer

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Ursula Matulonis, MD

The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation has awarded researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute a $900,000 grant to test new combinations of targeted drugs against the disease. Ursula Matulonis, MD, Director of the Gynecological Cancer Treatment Center in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber is the Principal Investigator of the Program Project Development Grant from Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. This grant helped mark the Foundation’s 20th Anniversary for which an unprecedented $6.9 million was awarded in research and program grants to support patients with gynecologic cancers.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to quickly bring laboratory-tested and verified novel drug combinations into ovarian cancer clinical trials,” said Dr. Matulonis.

She noted that treatment advances in ovarian cancer have reached a plateau. “Newer agents that target ovarian cancer genetic abnormalities have shown some efficacy as single agents, but cancer cells eventually figure out ways to grow despite the drug,” she said.  Dr.  Matulonis and her team will explore a number of strategies that combine drugs that simultaneously target several abnormal biologic pathways in ovarian cancer cells. In one project, researchers will test the effectiveness of a PARP inhibitor and another targeted therapy in blocking the abnormal PI3-kinase signaling pathway in ovarian tumors.

A second project will combine a heat shock protein (HSP) inhibitor and a PARP inhibitor aimed at preventing damaged ovarian cancer cells from repairing themselves. The third project will use BH3 profiling, which measures how close cancer cells are to destroying themselves, to
evaluate targeted drug combinations.

Other researchers at Dana-Farber funded by the grant are Panagiotis Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD,
Anthony Letai, MD, PhD, Joyce Liu, MD, MPH,
and William Barry, PhD, and investigator Gerburg Wulf, MD, PhD, of Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center. ■