Improving Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer
Priscilla S. Dannies, Ph.D.,Professor of Pharmacology
Most patients with ovarian cancer respond fully to the initial standard therapies including surgery and chemotherapy. However, the cancer very often recurs and becomes resistant to treatment, and women with ovarian cancer suffer the highest mortality rate among patients with gynecological cancers. Dr. Dannies investigated a new approach to treatment of ovarian cancer that involves interfering with the functioning of tumor cells to make them more susceptible to destruction by chemotherapy, thus providing a new way to improve the survival rate of women with ovarian cancer.
Highlighted Study Findings
In a project employing innovative molecular techniques, Dr. Dannies studied potential ways to interfere with the normal functioning of cells in order to “stress” the cells and, thus, make them more vulnerable to toxic agents such as those used to treat cancer. One routine event in every cell is the folding of newly made, or synthesized, proteins into a special compartment in the cell called the secretory pathway. All cells need to make such proteins, and all cells have a secretory pathway through which the proteins are transported to where they belong. Cells have mechanisms to help proteins fold, and feedback systems to increase these “help mechanisms” if needed. When cells are forced continually to make proteins in the secretory pathway that cannot fold, the cells become “stressed.” Dr. Dannies was able to find a protein that cannot be folded properly or disposed of easily by the secretory pathway of ovarian cells. Subsequent research has incorporated this methodology in using techniques developed for gene therapy.