Fox Chase Researchers Receive Grant to Study High-Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer
Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2020
On January 28, James S. Duncan, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Cancer Biology program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, received the Liz Tilberis Early Career Award from the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA). Dr. Duncan and seven other 2020 award winners will receive a 3-year grant of $150,000 per year to support their research in ovarian cancer. Dr. Duncan is among 22 OCRA grantees receiving a total of $6.6 million in ovarian cancer funding this year. The Tilberis Award is presented to junior faculty with a strong commitment to ovarian cancer research.
Together with his grant collaborator, Denise Connolly, PhD, Associate Professor in the Molecular Therapeutics program and Director of the Biosample Repository Facility at Fox Chase, Dr. Duncan will use the grant to research drug combination therapies to treat high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma—the most common and deadly subtype of epithelial ovarian cancer.
Specifically, Drs. Duncan and Connolly are investigating a new class of drugs called proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs). “Why we’re excited about them is because they hijack the cancer cells’ protein machinery,” said Dr. Duncan. “These PROTACs can target and destroy a specific protein in the cell using the cancer’s own protein degradation machinery.”
Thus far, Dr. Duncan’s research has shown that the cancer cells respond to PROTACs by upregulating protein kinases, which prevents BRD4 from being degraded by these agents. “Tumor cells bypass drug treatment through rewiring of their protein kinome and then that allows them to become resistant to these drugs,” said Dr. Duncan. “That’s why you need combination therapies.”