The growth and survival of normal cells depends on the signaling molecule, AKT, a serine-threonine protein kinase. In ovarian cancer, however, AKT kinase activity is pathologically increased. Such amplified AKT activity protects tumor cells from cell death that would ordinarily occur after chemotherapy and radiation treatments. To address this dysfunction of AKT signaling in ovarian tumor cells, Dr. Franke aims to design novel therapeutics that can overcome AKT-dependent chemoresistance. The goal is to uncover small-molecule inhibitors that can block excessive and pathologic signaling in the cell that arises after the AKT dysfunction occurs to restore the sensitivity of tumor cells to cancer treatment. Findings may lead to innovative strategies for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Franke is now an Associate Professor od Psychiatry and Pharmacology (Research) at New York University Medical Center.