Grants - V Scholar Grants - North Carolina - 2019

Hector Franco, Ph.D.

Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers among women worldwide. In 2019, nearly 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the US, and approximately 14,070 women will succumb to this disease. Most women respond well to the standard treatment, however, the majority of these patients (with estimates up to 75%) experience a recurrence of the disease due to acquired resistance of the tumor cells to chemotherapy.

This proposal is aimed at understanding what makes ovarian cancer cells resistant to therapy with the goal of discovering new avenues for therapeutic intervention. We will use state-of-the-art genome sequencing techniques to measure the changes that occur in primary ovarian tumor samples compared to recurrent tumor samples collected from the UNC Cancer Hospital. Our goal is to define how genes are being regulated in ovarian tumors in order to identify the molecular switches that are responsible for turning on genes that give rise to resistance. We hypothesize that these molecular switches (known as enhancers) are hijacked by the tumor cells for the activation of genes that give rise to resistance. We aim to identify their locations throughout the genome and determine which ones are responsible for drug resistance. Completion of this project will increase our knowledge about an understudied new facet of ovarian cancer, advance the way cancer research is conducted, provide a new set of biomarkers with diagnostic and prognostic potential, and highlight new targets for controlling cancer cell growth.