Grants - V Scholar Grants - Maine - 2017

Ewelina Bolcun-Filas, Ph.D.

Funded in partership with WWE in honor of Connor’s Cure

Young girls who survive cancer may also face the devastating prospect of reduced fertility and hormonal problems when they reach adulthood. Treatment of pediatric cancer damages ovaries and lifetime egg supplies in up to 20% of young girls. Current strategies to correct loss of fertility involve removal of eggs from patients prior to treatment, but this is invasive and does not prevent the chronic health problems that result from ovarian damage.

To improve quality of life for young female cancer survivors, we must develop strategies to protect their egg supplies, which are critical for continuous endocrine function of ovaries and fertility. Our goal is to identify egg-saving treatments that can be used along with standard cancer therapies.

We will begin by analyzing how eggs and other cells in the ovary respond to different cancer treatments. By detecting changes in the levels of proteins in response to various cancer therapies, we can learn which proteins are responsible for egg death and identify drugs that target those proteins to prevent eggs from dying.

Our lab has previously found that a specific protein, CHK2, promotes elimination of eggs in response to the kind of damage caused by cancer treatments, making this a promising target. We will test the feasibility of targeting CHK2, and we expect that our work will demonstrate the benefits and potential risks of CHK2-targeting drugs for protecting eggs. We also expect to provide a list of novel drug targets for egg protection in cancer patients.