2019 Recipient — Elizabeth Stover, MD, PhD

Elizabeth Stover, MD, PhD

Targeting Anti-apoptotic Proteins BCL-XL and MCL-1 in Serous Ovarian Cancer

Project Summary

While many ovarian cancer patients initially respond to chemotherapy, most patients ultimately develop chemotherapy-resistant disease that is difficult to treat and confers a poor prognosis. Understanding the mechanisms by which ovarian cancer cells become chemotherapy resistant, and generating new ideas for treatment of chemotherapy-resistant cancer, is critical to improving patient outcomes. This project builds on our previous research in which we tested thousands of genes in ovarian cancer cells to identify genes that affect ovarian cancer cell survival after treatment with platinum and/or taxane chemotherapy. Several genes that inhibit cell death signaling pathways (apoptosis) were associated with chemotherapy resistance. Increasing levels of these anti-apoptotic proteins could promote ovarian cancer cell survival after chemotherapy treatment. On the other hand, we and others showed that inhibitors of anti-apoptotic proteins (essentially, drugs that block the proteins protecting cancer cells from death) can collaborate with chemotherapy to increase cancer cell killing.

Our current project will investigate the mechanisms by which chemotherapy and anti-apoptotic protein inhibitors cooperate to kill cancer cells more effectively. We will test ovarian cancer cell lines for sensitivity to anti-apoptotic protein inhibitors and identify potential biomarkers of response. Our project will test whether targeting anti-apoptotic proteins can increase the activity of chemotherapy or other drugs against ovarian cancer, and whether these inhibitors can help to more effectively treat drug-resistant ovarian cancer.


Elizabeth Stover, MD, PhD is a medical oncologist in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She received her BA in Biology from Harvard College, M.Phil. in Medical Sciences from Cambridge University (United Kingdom), and MD and PhD from Harvard Medical School, with PhD research in the biology of hematologic malignancies with D. Gary Gilliland MD, PhD. She completed internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and hematology and oncology fellowship training at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. Her postdoctoral fellowship training has been conducted under the mentorship of Levi A. Garraway MD, PhD, Matthew Meyerson MD, PhD, and Cory Johannessen, PhD at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute.

Her research focuses on genomic and functional approaches to understanding drug response and resistance in ovarian cancer and other gynecologic malignancies. Current research efforts aim to understand mechanisms of apoptotic cell death induced by chemotherapy and targeted agents in ovarian cancer and how to modulate apoptotic pathways to improve disease responses. She is a recipient of an American Society for Clinical Oncology Young Investigator Award and a Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Scientific Scholar Award.