2004 Individual Investigator Award Recipient — Richard Pietras, MD, PhD
The growth and metastasis of ovarian cancer depends, in part, on formation of an adequate blood supply to transport needed oxygen and nutrients to the growing tumor mass. This process of tumor-associated blood vessel growth, or angiogenesis, is regulated by growth factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), that stimulate the proliferation of blood vessels. VEGF is produced and secreted by ovarian cancers, including those with activated tumor growth factor receptors, such as HER-2 and EGF receptors. Inhibitors of these tumor growth factor receptors can reduce VEGF secretion from tumors to stop angiogenesis and, thereby, slow cancer growth. Dr. Pietras hypothesizes that a more complete blockade of tumor angiogenesis can be elicited by combined treatments that disrupt the proliferation of tumor blood vessels by different mechanisms. He will assess the antitumor effects of antibodies targeted to bind with and disrupt the functions of tumor growth factor receptors and VEGF. In addition, he will test the potential clinical utility of squalamine, a naturally-occurring compound designated by the Food and Drug Administration as an orphan drug with potential for antitumor and anti-angiogenesis effects in ovarian cancer. Use of these agents in combination will be explored to elicit optimal blockade of ovarian cancer progression.
Dr. Pietras earned a BA degree in Biology at Clark University (Worcester, MA). Later, he undertook postgraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He earned a Ph.D. degree in Endocrine Physiology and an M.D. degree at UCLA. His post-graduate residency training in Internal Medicine and fellowship training in Hematology-Oncology were completed at the UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Pietras is a licensed physician in the State of California, and he earned Board Certification in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology from the American Board of Internal Medicine.