ALBANY, N.Y., July 17, 2006—Jihe Zhao, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Center for Cell Biology and Cancer Research at Albany Medical College, was recently awarded a four-year, $720,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to better understand the biological differences between normal and cancerous ovarian cells in hopes that the research will lead to earlier detection and improved patient outcomes. Ovarian cancer is currently the leading cause of death among gynecological cancer patients.
“Ovarian cancer is often discovered too late or at advanced stages after it has already spread beyond the ovary and attacked other organs. If we can recognize when changes begin to occur to the normal cells, we may be able to develop methods to help us detect the disease sooner,” said Dr. Zhao.
According to Dr. Zhao, ovarian cancer arises from a layer of cells that cover the ovarian surface. While typical cell growth is tightly controlled by important regulator proteins such as focal adhesion kinase (FAK), cancer cells grow in an uncontrolled manner because the regulator proteins are deregulated.
Dr. Zhao and his lab will genetically modify certain genes within normal and cancerous cells that are believed to have an effect on ovarian cancer formation and development. Specifically, they will examine the roles of FAK and another protein—Kruppel-like transcription factor 8 (KLF8)— in the growth and spread of ovarian cancer.
“Our recent findings suggest that KLF8 plays a crucial role in both growth and migration of normal cells, and growing evidence suggests that FAK proteins can change a normal cell into a cancer cell,” said Dr. Zhao, who further explains that by modifying these genes, he hopes to confirm their key contribution to ovarian cancer. This confirmation may lead to the use of these genes as molecular markers and targets for early diagnosis and gene therapy.
“Understanding the regulating behaviors of these proteins may result in an understanding of the mechanisms underlying the pathology of ovarian cancer, which may in turn lead to the development of early diagnostic tests and cures.”
Albany Medical Center is northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center. It consists of Albany Medical College, Albany Medical Center Hospital; and the Albany Medical Center Foundation, Inc. Additional information about Albany Medical Center can be found at www.amc.edu.
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