Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women in the United States and has the highest mortality rate of all gynecologic malignancies. In average there will be 22, 280 new cases and 15,500 deaths due to ovarian cancer in 2012 in the United States. The lifetime probability of a women developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 70 and most patients present with advanced disease, which is managed with surgical resection followed by platinum-based chemotherapy. Despite advances in surgical and chemotherapeutic approaches, the resistance of ovarian cancer cells to traditional cytotoxic agents is a major obstacle for treatment and better therapeutic approaches for ovarian cancer are needed. This research project will study how ovarian cancer spreads from the primary tumor to other sites in the body. Key steps in this process are the acquisition of a motile phenotype and the ability of cancer cells to survive upon detachment from the primary tumor. Enhanced cell migration enables the cancer to invade into surrounding tissue or vasculature, and augmented cell survival promotes cancer cell growth in other parts of the body. Particularly, the research will be focused on the molecular signaling events within cancer cells that control cell migration and survival in ovarian cancer. By understanding why ovarian cancer cells become invasive and migrate to other tissues, we will be able to target and block this process and design better treatments to restrict the spread of ovarian cancer through the body.
This grant was made possible through the generous support of the University of California Office of the President’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.
Christine Lawson, Ph. D. is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center in the program of Gynecological Oncology in the Department of Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Lawson completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology, her M.Sc. in Microbiology-Immunology and her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Laval University (Quebec, Canada). Her postdoctoral studies have led her to uncover a new molecular linkage between integrins and FAK in the control of cell motility. Her research interests are now expanding these findings to the importance of FAK, talin and integrins in ovarian cancer and how these proteins interact and regulate one and other during initial binding events of cancer cells to the peritoneal wall and other organs during metastasis. Dr. Lawson was a recipient of a postdoctoral research award from the Canadian Institutes in Health Research (CIHR) from 2009-2012.