Q&A with Jill Madden, PhD
University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc.
2016 Ann Schreiber Mentored Investigator Award
OCRFA: Tell me about yourself. Did you always want to be a scientist? Were you interested in science as a child?
Jill Madden: I grew up on a farm in rural Alden, Iowa, where livestock breeding outcomes and genetically modified corn gave me an early appreciation for science and genetics. My interest in science grew in school, particularly because of my junior high science teacher who had a passion for all things science. I continued to follow my interests, which landed me in the genetics undergraduate program at Iowa State University. Here I crossed paths with a new faculty member, Aileen Keating, Ph.D. I was instantly drawn to her research and joined her lab as a graduate student to research the impact of chemotherapy on ovarian follicles.
OCRFA: What motivated you to focus on ovarian cancer research?
JM: While in graduate school, I developed a passion for my research project and its potential to impact the lives of female cancer survivors and their families. Graduate school also confirmed my desire to have a career in human health and genetics. As I approached graduation, I learned about a postdoctoral position available with Jeremy Chien, Ph.D., at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, researching ovarian cancer. This opportunity was a perfect complement to my training in ovarian physiology and toxicology and would allow me to expand my skills and knowledge to the field of cancer biology. Additionally, the need for advancements in ovarian cancer screening, prognosis and treatment was undeniable and a motivating factor to accept the position and focus my research efforts on this frustrating disease in the hopes of making a difference.
OCRFA: Tell me about your OCRFA-funded research project.
JM: My OCRFA project will repurpose the antibiotic thiostrepton to target and decrease the expression of a gene called FoxM1. FoxM1 is frequently found in excess in ovarian cancer leading to increased cell production and resistance. So far, I have seen the effects of thiostrepton enhance cancer cell sensitivity to chemotherapy, and we are particularly interested in understanding how this occurs. In addition to promoting genes that induce cancer cell death, I have also found that thiostrepton alters the immune response in cancer cells, a finding that we could use to our advantage as another route to combat ovarian cancer. This OCRFA grant will allow me to expand and validate these results using a mouse model, which is a vital step toward moving this drug to clinic.
OCRFA: What do you like best about your job?
JM: The part I enjoy most about my job is knowing that my research will lead to a greater understanding of ovarian cancer which will improve ovarian cancer treatments and extend the lives of patients.
Dr. Madden’s research project was made possible thanks to a generous donation from Newk’s Cares, and Ovarian Cycle Jackson, Mississippi. Read more about Dr. Madden’s OCRFA-funded research project here.