AACR Annual Meeting Research Update

A number of Fox Chase investigators presented research findings at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif., in April.

  • Medical oncologist Ranee Mehra, MD, and colleagues found that a quartet of proteins that play critical roles in cell replication, cell death, and DNA repair could lead to better targets for therapy against treatment-resistant head-and-neck squamous cell cancers by showing a correlation between the expression levels of these proteins in head and neck cancers negative for human papilloma virus (HPV). These tumors have a poorer prognosis than HPV-positive head and neck cancers. Dr. Mehra’s research could help determine potential treatments for head and neck cancers.
  • Scientific assistant Shane W. O’Brien, MS, associate professor Denise C. Connolly, PhD, and colleagues shut off the spigot for two proteases that help ovarian cancer cells chew their way out of the tissue they grow in and dig in at new locations by incapacitating the activities of a protein that guides other proteins to fold into stable shapes. Building on earlier work that showed that inhibition of heat shock proteins—the protein origami helpers—limited metastases in ovarian cancer in mice, they explored how the heat shock proteins are involved in metastasis. The research could prove useful in identifying therapeutic targets that actively inhibit metastasis in patients with ovarian cancer.
  • Research associate Fang Xiao, MD, PhD, and Denise C. Connolly, PhD, whose research focuses on the biological mechanisms behind metastatic epithelial ovarian cancer, found that an enzyme called focal adhesive kinase (FAK) can play a critical—and previously unstudied—role in the growth and spread of the disease. Initially, they set out to study a transcription factor called STAT3, known to be important in the proliferation and survival of cells, which led them to show that FAK inhibition results in dramatic reduction or inhibition of STAT3—a finding that suggests targeting the enzyme could be a way to also inhibit the action of STAT3 in epithelial ovarian cancer.
  • Associate professor Edna Cukierman, PhD, whose research focuses on the interactions between tumors and the microenvironments where they live, found that renal, or kidney, cancer cells planted in a supportive environment proliferate with the help of an enzyme usually only seen in the brain. The enzyme may eventually become a target for cancer therapy.
  • Graduate student Rashid Gabbasov, Denise C. Connolly, PhD, and fellow researchers have shown that scaffolding protein NEDD9—already known to be important in tumor invasion and spread of some lymphomas and many solid tumor types, including melanoma, neuroblastoma, and breast cancer—promotes the growth and spread of epithelial ovarian cancer. Their work shows that expression of the protein likely plays an important role both in the initial development of ovarian cancer and tumor dissemination.