July 8, 2024

Detroit researchers receive Department of Defense grant to assist in discovering new treatments for ovarian cancer

Empower health

Gen Sheng Wu, Ph.D., professor of Oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, recently received a grant from the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

The four-year, $924,000 grant will benefit Wu’s study, “Targeting Dual-Specificity Phosphatase 1 in Platinum Resistance in Ovarian Cancer,” which aims to discover improved treatments for ovarian cancer.

Gen Sheng Wu, Ph.D.

“Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest diseases,” Dr. Wu said. “It’s difficult to diagnose early and most cases are only found in the late stages. The late-stage survival rate is approximately 30%. After surgery, chemotherapy is the other primary treatment; however, patients develop a resistance to this treatment very quickly. It’s a major problem with ovarian cancer and it’s our major challenge in the field.”

The overarching challenge that this research will address is the elimination of drug-resistant ovarian cancer cells using new treatment regimens. Specifically, Dr. Wu and his research team have identified a resistance mechanism that involves a protein called dual-specificity phosphatase 1.

Dr. Wu believes this could be an important step in addressing ovarian cancer because it has the potential to improve the efficacy of platinum-based therapies. Platinum-based therapies are the standard first-line chemotherapy for most patients with ovarian cancer. However, almost all patients receiving platinum eventually relapse and die from metastatic disease, mainly due to primary and acquired resistance to the treatment.

“With this grant, we will follow up  findings that phosphatases that can remove the phosphate group to, and thus shut down, MAPK signaling to promote cancer cell survival,” Dr. Wu said. “Based on this mechanism, we are studying how this reaction works and how implementing it may increase survival and remission rates.”

“Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women, and this important funding will help Dr. Wu and his research team to help address this critical challenge,” said Ezemenari Obasi, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State University. “Dr. Wu’s work has the potential to make a lifesaving difference for patients in our community and beyond.”

Making that difference is a key component of Wayne State University’s Prosperity Agenda, which seeks to empower health for the urban neighborhoods the university serves.

The award number for this Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program grant is HT9425-24-1-0694.

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