2011 Early Career Investigator Grant Recipient — Analisa DiFeo, PhD
A significant problem for women with ovarian cancer is the high incidence of recurrence after chemotherapy. To help these women, researchers are trying to develop new treatments that could potentially overcome resistance. A new approach in creating novel treatments is to predict a patient’s response to a specific therapy by studying the molecular fingerprint of a tumor and to develop specific treatment targets for that tumor. Recent evidence shows that drug-sensitive and drug-resistant cancers have different profiles of certain molecules, called microRNAs (miRNA.) In her study, Dr. DiFeo aims to study a particular miRNA, called miR181, to understand its role as a possible marker for individualized therapy. She also will study if novel therapeutics that target miR181may increase sensitivity to standard chemotherapy, such as platinum-based drugs. Her findings could lead to the development of specific ovarian cancer molecular signatures and how they might be targeted to overcome resistance.
Dr. Analisa DiFeo is an Assistant Professor of General Medical Science-Oncology at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. Previously she was an Instructor in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Her laboratory interests are focused on uncovering novel ways to improve the detection and treatment of ovarian cancer with specific interest in understanding the mechanisms of ovarian cancer chemoresistance. The overall goal of the laboratory is to identify novel biomarkers of ovarian cancer therapeutic response and generate novel targeted molecular therapies that can work alone or in conjunction with current treatment options to combat ovarian cancer. Using a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches, her lab hopes to better understand the mechanism by which both microRNA’s and the genes they regulate are involved in ovarian tumor biology at the cellular level as well as disease development and progression in animals. Dr. DiFeo completed her Ph.D. training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 2008 and in addition to her 2010 Liz Tilberis Award from OCRF, she was the recipient of the American Association of Cancer Research AstraZeneca Scholar-in-Training Award in 2008.