2014 Recipient — Rachel Grisham, MD

Rachel Grisham headshot, smiling

Rachel Grisham, MD

Determining the Molecular Drivers of Low-Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer

Project Summary

Low-grade serous ovarian cancer is a rare type of ovarian cancer that is profoundly resistant to standard chemotherapy options. Response rates to chemotherapy are typically less than 5%. However, chemotherapy remains the standard of care for patients, both in the upfront setting and in those with surgically unresectable recurrent disease, due to the lack of more effective treatment strategies.

Low-grade serous ovarian cancer often develops from a precancerous condition referred to as serous borderline disease. Patients with low-grade serous ovarian cancer typically present at a young age and have a protracted clinical course compared to high grade serous ovarian cancer. In addition, patients with low-grade serous ovarian cancer frequently harbor mutations in the MAP Kinase pathway, a pathway that can lead to cancer cell growth. Early phase studies have shown promising results for the use of targeted therapies that inhibit the MAP Kinase pathway for treatment of this disease.

The aim of the current project is to determine molecular markers for progression from serous borderline disease to low-grade serous ovarian cancer, so that we may better predict which patients will develop advanced disease requiring systemic treatment, and to identify those patients who will be most likely to respond to targeted therapies.

These studies will result in the most comprehensive genetic profiling of serous borderline and low-grade serous ovarian tumors to date, allowing for prognostication and intelligent design of future clinical trials using targeted therapeutics for treatment of this disease. The overarching goal of these efforts is to determine which patients are most likely to develop invasive low-grade serous ovarian cancer and to identify those patients most likely to benefit from treatment with targeted therapies, with the ultimate goal of ushering in a new era of personalized treatment for patients with this disease.

This project has been generously supported by Ovarian Cycle New York.


Dr. Rachel Grisham is an Assistant Attending within the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and an Instructor in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. She completed her undergraduate education at Rutgers University where she graduated as the class valedictorian and received the Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholar Award, the Robert E. Galbraith Merit Scholarship, The Rutgers University Alumni Merit Scholarship, the Aresty Research Scholarship, and the William B. Foster Award in Biological Sciences.

While obtaining her medical degree at Duke University School of Medicine, she spent a year as a Howard Hughes Medical Fellow performing research focused on elucidating the mechanism of action of an oncolytic attenuated poliovirus in the laboratory of Dr. Matthias Gromeier. While at Duke, Dr. Grisham also received the Duke Academic Senior Award and the Obstetrics and Gynecology Chairman’s Scholars Award. Dr. Grisham performed her Internal Medicine internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. She then came to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where she served as the Chief Fellow of the Hematology and Oncology Fellowship Program and initiated her current research program under the guided mentorship of Dr. Carol Aghajanian. Dr. Grisham subsequently joined the Gynecologic Medical Oncology Service in 2012.

Dr. Grisham’s laboratory research focuses on determining the molecular drivers of low-grade serous ovarian cancer while her clinical research involves the development of targeted treatment strategies for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer. In addition to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Liz Tilberis Grant, Dr. Grisham has received an ASCO Merit Award, a Cycle for Survival Award, and a Translational and Integrative Medicine Research Fund Grant to support her current research efforts.