Search for Vulnerabilities in Ovarian Tumors Leads to NEDD9, an Important Protein in Several Cancer Types

Denise Connolly, PhD, Associate Professor
Denise Connolly, PhD, Associate Professor

PHILADELPHIA (May 30, 2018) – Scientists seeking a path to better patient outcomes in ovarian cancer have discovered that a scaffolding protein known to promote breast cancer and melanoma metastasis, but aid in suppressing hematologic cancers, is associated with aggressive ovarian tumor growth. A multi-disciplinary team at Fox Chase Cancer Center led by Denise Connolly, PhD, found that neural precursor cell expressed developmentally downregulated 9 (NEDD9), causes ovarian tumors to grow more quickly and more aggressively, and that when it is absent-, the tumors are less aggressive. The paper appears in the journal Oncogene.

NEDD9 is a naturally occurring protein that is involved in numerous fundamental cellular processes. The researchers found that the presence of NEDD9 within tumor tissue influenced aggressiveness. Whereas the level of NEDD9 in the tumor microenvironment did not show the same effect.

Although this was a study of tumors in mice, Connolly noted that women with high grade serous carcinoma, the most common and lethal form of ovarian cancer, show over-expression of NEDD9. According to the Centers for Disease Control, ovarian cancer is the tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, but the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death among women.

 “We study the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying ovarian cancer development and progression with the goal of finding druggable targets and other vulnerabilities that may be translated into improved outcomes for women with this disease,” Connolly said.

Financial Support: This work was supported by R01 CA136596; R01 CA63366; Ovarian SPORE P50 CA083638, the FCCC Core Grant NCI P30 CA006927, and charitable donations from the Roberta Dubrow Fund, the Teal Tea Foundation, and the Bucks County Board of Associates.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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