University of Pittsburgh Receives Prestigious NIH Award for Research Excellence in Ovarian Cancer

The University of Pittsburgh was awarded a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support an Ovarian Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE). The award is led by Ronald Buckanovich, MD, PhD, and Robert Edwards, MD. Dr. Buckanovich is a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the Ovarian Cancer Center of Research Excellence, co-director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center (a collaboration between UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the Magee-Womens Research Institute), and co-director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s Cancer Biology Program. Dr. Edwards is the Milton Lawrence McCall Professor and Chair for the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, chief medical officer for UPMC Community and Ambulatory Services Division.

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecological cancer in the United States. In 2020, the latest year for which incidence data are available, the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group reported 18,518 new cases of ovarian cancer and 13,438 deaths among U.S. women.

The Ovarian SPORE at the University of Pittsburgh aims to improve survival for women with ovarian cancer by improving the efficacy of therapies by preventing or overcoming therapeutic resistance. The project will offer three clinical trials, investigating three new therapeutic agents based on innovative concepts, findings, and the clinical expertise of the team. One trial will address the ability to overcome resistance to chemotherapy, a second will address resistance to PARP inhibitor therapy (a new therapy for patients with BRCA mutations in their tumors), and the third will attempt to overcome resistance to immunotherapy in ovarian cancer patients.

Two SPORE-specific core facilities are supported as part of the research infrastructure for the Ovarian SPORE. The Translational Pathology Core will collect patient tumor and blood samples to allow investigators to identify signatures that will predict response or resistance to therapy. It will also develop new, more precise preclinical experimental models that closely represent human ovarian cancer and will allow more rapid development of new drugs. The second core, the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Core will aid in design and analysis of all studies, including -omic technologies that can provide molecular and spatial characterization of individual cells within a tumor.

In addition, the Ovarian SPORE includes career enhancement and research development aspects to nurture early career investigators and encourage more ovarian cancer researchers to translate their work.

The Ovarian SPORE is one of three SPOREs awarded to the University of Pittsburgh. The SPORE program is a cornerstone effort by NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary translational cancer research, aiming to translate novel scientific discoveries from the laboratory and/or population studies to the clinic for testing in humans with cancer or at risk for cancer.

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