In Research, Survivors

Research Profile: MOCA’s Most Funded Researcher, Amy Skubitz, PhD

MOCA has awarded Amy Skubitz, PhD, University of Minnesota, a total of more than $1 million for her work in early detection research over the past 20 years. At our Annual Meeting in May, MOCA awarded Dr. Skubitz an additional $100,000 for a promising new project aimed at preventing recurrence entitled, “A novel method to treat ovarian cancer: Increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy to prevent ovarian cancer recurrence.”

Amy Skubitz, PhD, University of Minnesota

Dr. Skubitz shared, “I am truly very grateful to those who have chosen to support MOCA and our research project. Your support has enabled researchers to pursue projects that are necessary to increase our understanding of the biology of ovarian cancer and then apply those discoveries to the identification of early-stage biomarkers and new treatments for ovarian cancer,”

Dr. Skubitz explains the goals of her research project below.

How would you describe the goals of your MOCA-funded research project?

“Although most ovarian cancer patients will initially respond to standard chemotherapy, the cancer will return in 20-30% of patients within 6 months of treatment. These sobering results highlight the need for more effective chemotherapeutic agents to prevent recurrence. In this study, we propose a series of experiments that encompass a new paradigm for treating women with ovarian cancer, based on the highly adhesive capability of ovarian cancer cells. The goal of our project is to test a small part of Nectin-4, a cell adhesion protein, for its ability to block the aggregation of ovarian cancer cells and thereby increase the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic agents in causing ovarian cancer cell death.”

Why do you believe this project holds promise?

“In this study, we propose to perform experiments that incorporate a novel therapeutic strategy that we envision will lead to better treatment options for women with ovarian cancer. We hypothesize that by blocking the ability of tumor cells to adhere to each other, as well as their ability to adhere to other essential organs, it may be possible to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic agents and eradicate residual cancer cells. The experiments outlined in this proposal will lay the groundwork for future studies that we anticipate will lead to clinical trials in treating ovarian cancer patients to prevent tumor recurrence.”

Do you have any personal connections to ovarian cancer that you would like to share?

“My mother was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer in the late 1980s and was fortunate to survive disease-free for 20 years after two surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy. She was my inspiration to pursue a career in ovarian cancer research.  My first MOCA grant was funded in 2003, and the camaraderie that I have shared with MOCA ovarian cancer survivors and their family members has provided me with two decades of motivation to continue on this career path.”

For a complete list of MOCA’s 2023 Research Award projects, click here.

Your donations to MOCA help advance vital research needed to change the future of ovarian cancer. Make your gift today, here

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