An increased level of interaction is occurring between programs focusing on new developments in the genetics of ovarian cancer and their implications for molecularly targeted approaches to cancer.
A critical problem in the treatment of ovarian cancer is the eventual development of platinum-resistant disease in the vast majority of patients with this disease. Observations on the Fanconi Anemia pathway in ovarian cancer and platinum sensitivity have brought about a collaborative interaction between the Cancer Cell Biology and the Gynecologic Cancers Programs and have led to the development of a cell-based screening test to identify inhibitors of the FA/BRCA pathway.
Similarly, this program has developed strong inter-programmatic ties with the Translational Pharmacology and Early Therapeutic Trials Program in the conduct of novel clinical early phase trials. ET-743 is a transcription inhibitor that has undergone Phase I and II evaluation in platinum-refractory ovarian cancer patients.
In a nodal interaction with the Cancer Immunology Program, vaccination strategies that could enhance anti-tumor immunity in patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Two pilot studies have evaluated novel immunotherapeutic approaches in patients with either recurrent disease or high-risk disease following initial de-bulking and cytotoxic therapy.
Collaborative research / translational success stories
Dr. Tayyaba Hasan’s NIH Program Project Grant is a joint collaboration with researchers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, the University of Toronto, and the Cleveland Clinic.
The nanotech platform partnership award involving the ovarian cancer grant on photodestruction is a collaborative project, with investigators at BWH and the Department of Pathology at MGH, focused on developing a new optical approach for the treatment of ovarian cancer. The prognosis for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer remains poor—less than a third will survive five or more years—and new treatment approaches are imperative. The program envisions a selective, externally activated therapy involving nanoparticles conjugated to aptamers, which target ovarian cancer cells and deliver high payloads of light-activatable molecules in an emerging modality called photodynamic therapy (PDT). The two most notable advantages of PDT are the dual selectivity inherent in the method and its reported effectiveness on cells that have become resistant to chemotherapeutic agents.
High-Profile Awards and Honors
Dr. Ronnie Drapkin received the Investigator Award from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, Inc. (2004–2005). He recently joined the Faculty at the DFCI Department of Molecular Oncology as an Associate Member of the new Center for Molecular Oncologic Pathology. The center is a joint initiative between DFCI and BWH. The new Center is scheduled to open in June 2006.
Dr. Daniela Dinelescu was recently awarded the prestigious Burroughs Welcome Career Development award, which will provide five years’ funding for her research focusing on mouse models of ovarian cancer.
Significant New Faculty
Dr. Dinulescu joins the BWH Pathology Department. Dr. Daniela Dinulescu is a new faculty appointment in the Department of Pathology at BWH. Dr. Dinulescu joins the Department as an Instructor in Pathology and will interact closely with members of the Division of Women’s and Perinatal Pathology. Dr. Dinulescu did her graduate training at the Vollum Institute, Oregon Health Sciences University, working in the field of neuroendocrinology. As a graduate student in Dr. Roger Cone’s laboratory, Dr. Dinulescu investigated the neuronal pathways involved in the central regulation of weight and glucose homeostasis. Following graduate school, Dr. Dinulescu was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Tyler Jacks at the MIT Center for Cancer Research. During her fellowship, she was instrumental in developing the first mouse models of de novo endometriosis and endometrioid ovarian carcinoma, a subtype of epithelial ovarian cancer. As an independent investigator, Dr. Dinulescu will focus her efforts on studying the pathogenesis of the two diseases, developing new targeted therapies, and identifying biomarkers for early detection.
Dr. Drapkin joins the Molecular Pathology Group at DFCI. Dr. Ronnie Drapkin has been recruited to join the Division of Molecular Pathology at DFCI as an Assistant Professor in Pathology. Dr. Drapkin earned his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, where his Ph.D. research focused on mechanisms of transcriptionally coupled DNA repair. Subsequently, he trained in anatomic pathology at BWH and, since 2000, has been in the Division of Cancer Biology under the mentorship of Dr. David Livingston. In Dr. Livingston’s laboratory, Dr. Drapkin has worked to define the molecular mechanisms important in BRCA-1 mutant-associated ovarian cancer and has also characterized the expression and function of the whey acidic protein, HE-4. Dr. Drapkin will be studying HE-4 and other members of the whey acidic protein family to better understand their role in ovarian carcinogenesis.
Appointment of Dr. Tayyaba Hasan. Dr. Tayyaba Hasan has been appointed as the first director of the newly established Office for Research Career Development at MGH. She has also been appointed to two additional positions at HMS: the Faculty Council and the Subcommittee of Professors.