2021 Mentored Investigator Grant Recipient — Anne M. van Harten, PhD
High grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) is the most prevalent subtype of ovarian cancer. It is aggressive and has a poor overall survival rate. Additionally, HGSOC frequently reoccurs and is commonly resistant to treatment, both of which contribute to a poor prognosis. Therefore, identification of new therapeutic approaches is urgently needed to improve patient survival. We recently identified a previously unknown vulnerability in HGSOC that can be targeted for treatment. A new compound was developed and preliminary data indicate that it targets this vulnerability subsequently killing the HGSOC cells. In the proposed project, I will study the susceptibility of HGSOC cells to this compound and its effects through a variety of approaches. Completion of this project will reveal a potential new avenue to treat HGSOC that may ultimately improve HGSOC patient care and survival.
This grant was made possible in part by generous donations from OCRA Community Partners, including Cancer Dancer, the Janice Lopez Ovarian Cancer Foundation and Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer.
Dr. Anne M. van Harten is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Her research interests are investigating cancer cell vulnerabilities and evaluating novel ways to target them. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical sciences, a Master of Science in oncology research, and a PhD in 2020 in cancer biology at the Vrije University/Amsterdam UMC in the Netherlands. Her PhD thesis has been nominated for the “Cancer Center Amsterdam PhD Thesis Award 2020”. At the end of her PhD, she worked as a visiting scientist at the University of Pennsylvania studying the DNA replication fork in high grade serous ovarian cancer. Dr. van Harten’s postdoctoral fellow project is investigating targeted protein degradation of a protein recently discovered in her mentor’s lab (Dr. Christine M. Eischen) to be required for high grade serous ovarian cancer survival, as an innovative treatment approach for this deadly malignancy. Her studies include evaluating a novel protein degrader compound designed for this newly uncovered essential protein. The OCRA Ann and Sol Schreiber Mentored Investigator Award will facilitate Dr. van Harten’s study that has the potential to ultimately improve therapy outcomes for patients with high grade serous ovarian cancer and possibly other types of ovarian cancers, and will support her training as a translational cancer researcher.