2003 Recipient — Ronny I. Drapkin, MD, PhD

Ronny I. Drapkin, MD, PhD

Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers: Identification, Validation and Assessment of Biological Function

Project Summary

Dr. Drapkin is focused on developing methods for early screening and detection of ovarian cancer using biomarkers in blood serum. Serum biomarkers are very versatile tools. They can be used to 1) screen and detect early cancer, 2) monitor disease status and response to treatment, and, in some cases, 3) form the basis for novel drug therapies. Dr. Drapkin has found a gene, called HE4, which appears to be a specific marker for ovarian cancer: Its expression is very limited in normal tissues and it does not appear to be abundantly expressed by other types of tumors. HE4 also is secreted by ovarian cancer cells and circulates in the blood. His intention is to characterize the value of HE4 as a serum biomarker, compare it to the utility of CA-125–the only currently available ovarian cancer biomarker–and to determine if HE4 can be detected in the urine. Also, he will determine if HE4 plays any role in the development or progression of ovarian cancer by using cutting edge RNA interference (RNAi) technology. RNAi will allow him to eliminate HE4 to see whether cancer cells without HE4 lose the ability to grow and invade other tissues.

Areas of Research:


Associate Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Pathology
Director, Ovarian Cancer Research Center
University of Pennsylvania
Director, Gynecologic Research
Basser Research Center for BRCA

Ronny Drapkin, M.D., Ph.D. recently joined the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania as Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Pathology and Director of Penn Medicine’s Ovarian Cancer Research Center. He also joined the Leadership Team of the Basser Research Center for BRCA as Director of Gynecological Research. He holds the Franklin Payne Chair in Gynecologic Oncology.

Dr. Drapkin has been awarded research grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and numerous foundations. His research activities focus on understanding the pathogenesis of gynecologic malignancies and integrating genomic findings into novel experimental model systems developed in his laboratory. The ultimate goal of his research is to translate important biological principles discovered in the laboratory into clinically useful diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

Dr. Drapkin has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed research papers, review articles, and book chapters. He serves on multiple editorial boards, including Gynecologic Oncology and Clinical Cancer Research. He received a B.A. degree with High Honors in Biochemistry from Brandeis University and his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Rutgers-Princeton joint MD-PhD program. After finishing his residency in Anatomic Pathology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Drapkin completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in cancer biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He then joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute until assuming his current position at UPenn.