2012 Recipient — Melinda Yates, PhD

Melinda Yates, PhD

Unraveling the Initiation of Ovarian Cancer: The BRCA1-Heterozygous Mouse as a Model System

Project Summary

Women with an inherited mutation in the gene BRCA1 have a high-risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer (also called hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome). Many researchers are working to create new chemotherapy drugs for cancers that occur in this specific sub-group of patients; however, very little is known about how this inherited genetic mutation actually triggers ovarian cancer development. Our study is focused on using mice that have this same genetic change (a mutation causing the BRCA1 gene to be defective), to recreate the earliest molecular “injuries” in the ovary and fallopian tube that initiate the progression to ovarian cancer. By understanding these very early changes, we may be able to identify new methods to prevent ovarian cancer in women at high-risk due to BRCA1 mutations.

This grant was made possible through the generous support of Phil and Judy Messing, in memory of Carol S. Messing.


Melinda S. Yates, Ph.D. is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Dr. Yates completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) and her Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore, Maryland). Her Ph.D. thesis work focused on using rodent models to develop drugs to prevent cancer (cancer chemoprevention). Her research interests continue to include a strong emphasis on cancer prevention. In her current studies under the mentorship of Dr. Karen H. Lu, M.D., she also maintains a dedication to translating research findings into advances that can improve health outcomes in women at high-risk for ovarian cancer due to inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Dr. Yates has received numerous awards, including a National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Prevention Research Training Award at MD Anderson Cancer Center, a National Institutes of Health LRP Grant in Clinical Research, PhRMA Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship in Pharmacology/Toxicology, and multiple Scholar-in-Training Awards from the American Association for Cancer Research.