Turning Off 2 Proteins to Slow High-Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer in Mice

Grantee: Pamela K. Kreeger, PhD
Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison 
Focus Area: Mission Boost
Grant Term: 1/1/2019 to 12/31/2020

The Challenge: High-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) is the most common kind of ovarian cancer and begins growing in one of the fallopian tubes, which carry a woman’s egg from the ovaries to the uterus. HGSOC can quickly spread to another place in the body. Here’s how: Tumor cells break off from the first tumor and float through the fluid in the abdominal cavity, trying to attach to organs in the abdomen. 

The Research: With previous ACS grant funding, Pamela Kreeger, PhD, and her team figured out that some immune cells called macrophages can release a protein that HGSOC needs to spread. When abdominal organs interact with this protein, they make a sticky protein of their own. These two sticky proteins make it easier for the cancer cells floating in the fluid to attach to an organ or other body part and start a HGSOC tumor. Women with HGSOC have more of both these types of proteins in their body than women who don’t have HGSOC. 

Kreeger thinks that finding a way to stop the body from making these two proteins may stop HGSOC from spreading.

With new ACS funding from a Mission Boost Grant, Kreeger is studying a drug called maraviroc (sold under the brand name Selzentry) , which is used to treat certain types of HIV by targeting one of the proteins also found in HGSOC. Her aim is to determine if the drug slows the production of these proteins in mice with HGSOC in hopes that the cancer will grow more slowly or not come back at all. 

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: If maraviroc works in mice, the next hopeful step would be to test it in women who have HGSOC in a clinical trial. Ultimately, Kreeger hopes maraviroc can help women with HGSOC live longer.