Ovarian cancer is thought to arise from cells of the surface epithelium of the ovary. However, most patients are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread beyond the ovaries. Such metastatic disease is rarely cured by current therapies. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms that promote metastasis of ovarian cancer is critical for reducing the mortality and morbidity caused by the disease. Many molecular mechanisms are conserved in humans and in lower organisms such as the fruit fly Drosophila. In the Drosophila ovary, a dynamic process of epithelial cell invasion and migration occurs that is reminiscent of the metastatic behavior of human ovarian cancer cells. This process in Drosophila is controlled, at least in part, by a gene called taiman. The taiman gene is related to a human gene called AIB1 that is amplified in breast and ovarian cancers. Dr. Naora hypothesizes that the AIB1 gene regulates metastasis of human ovarian cancer. Her laboratory will test whether inhibiting AIB1 expression in human ovarian cancer cells stops their migratory, invasive behavior. Also, she will examine whether over-expressing the AIB1 gene in human epithelial cells derived from normal ovaries induces these cells to become invasive and migratory. Her findings could lead to a better understanding of metastasis and possible ways to prevent it.
This award has been made possible by a generous grant from The Louis and Harold Price Foundation, Inc.
Dr. Naora is an Associate Professor, Department of Systems Biology, Division of Cancer Medicine, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.