2013 Recipient — Joyce Liu, MD, MPH

Joyce Liu, MD, MPH

Investigating ErbB3 as a Novel Therapeutic Target in Ovarian Cancer

Project Summary

Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer death, and although it can initially respond well to a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, the cancer usually recurs and becomes increasingly resistant to chemotherapy. New therapies against ovarian cancer are therefore required. In prior work, we have found that a particular molecule, ErbB3, can stimulate the growth of certain ovarian cancer cells grown in the laboratory. Furthermore, we have found that ErbB3 is active in a significant proportion of ovarian cancers that have been sampled directly from patients. In this project, we will seek to further explore the role of ErbB3 in ovarian cancer in order to understand how therapy targeted against ErbB3 will be most effective in the clinical treatment of ovarian cancer. Early work in the laboratory suggests that there is a subset of ovarian cancer cells that is very vulnerable to blockade of ErbB3 activity. We propose to search for markers that can identify the particular ovarian cancers that are most vulnerable to blocking ErbB3 activity. Identifying these markers will allow us to specifically direct drugs that block ErbB3 to the patients most likely to respond to this therapy. Additionally, we will search for what other molecules may work together with ErbB3 to help ovarian cancer cells grow and survive. These molecules may themselves represent new drug targets in ovarian cancer that can be attacked either individually or in combination with therapy directed against ErbB3.

This grant is made possible in part through a generous donation from Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer, the Louisa McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

Areas of Research:


Joyce F. Liu, MD, MPH is an Instructor in Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Liu received a BA in biochemical sciences from Harvard College, where she was elected to be a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She received her MD from Harvard Medical School and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Liu completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Liu’s research interests focus on identifying and validating potential therapeutic targets in ovarian cancer, with an emphasis on effective translation of potential targets into the clinical setting. Dr. Liu’s work has been recognized with multiple awards, including a Friends of the Farber Fellowship and the American Society of Clinical Oncology Young Investigator Award.