In Events, Research

MOCA Awards $400,000 to Ovarian Cancer Research Projects

MOCA-funded research projects continue to change the future of ovarian cancer for women and families impacted by this disease. MOCA’s 2020 Research Awards will provide $400,000 to four innovative ovarian cancer research projects. MOCA remains a national leader among private, nonprofit organizations, having provided a total of more than $9 million to ovarian cancer research.

MOCA is delighted to announce the recipients of our 2020 Research Awards. The following projects have been rigorously reviewed by MOCA’s team of national scientific and consumer reviewers.

Matthew Block, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic, “Restructuring the ovarian cancer immune microenvironment with the heparan sulfate mimetic PG545”, $100,000, Funded in part by MOCA’s Spin it Teal Research Award

This project focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of immunotherapy with an experimental drug to block macrophages that invade ovarian cancer tumors and suppress immune responses against the cancer. The goal is to combine PG545 and immunotherapy to see long-lasting ovarian cancer control in a high percentage of patients.

We are so grateful for MOCA’s generous support of ovarian cancer research. Advanced ovarian cancer remains challenging to control and help from MOCA accelerates our efforts to find new and better treatments. We are encouraged and inspired by your generosity.” 

                                –Dr. Matthew Block, Mayo Clinic

Amy Skubitz, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, “Early detection of ovarian cancer”, $100,000, National Early Detection Research Award, Funded in part by the Molly Cade Research Grant

MOCA supported preliminary studies identifying proteins in Pap test samples from women with ovarian cancer. New research will focus on using highly sensitive technology to verify that 30 candidate biomarkers are present in additional Pap tests and not in Pap tests from healthy women. The long-term goal is to develop an easy, noninvasive screening test to detect ovarian cancer cells in women.

Funding from MOCA has been critical as we strive to achieve our long-term goal: To develop a    test that could be used to detect early stages of ovarian cancer in the general population. We are very optimistic about the impact that this innovative study will have on women.  In the future, we anticipate that physicians will be able to predict whether women have ovarian cancer based on their Pap test samples.”

                                –Amy Skubitz, University of Minnesota, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Vijayalakshmi Shridhar, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic, “Quinacrine-induced active Cathepsin L is essential to promote ‘BRCAness’ to sensitize HR proficient ovarian cancer cells to PARP inhibitor”, $100,000

This research project aims to show the anti-malarial drug quinacrine, when combined with PARP inhibitors, will be effective in inhibiting tumor formation in patients with PARP-resistant ovarian cancer. PARP inhibitors have emerged as an important therapy for ovarian cancer, although many ovarian cancers develop resistance to the drugs over time. The goal of this project is to provide data to support a future clinical trial to address PARP resistance in ovarian cancer and improve patient outcomes.

 “A grant from MOCA is an honor and recognition of my effort to address critical issues associated with ovarian cancer.  The grants from MOCA have also served as a platform to generate critical preliminary data that I have leveraged into federal grants… The funds [from MOCA] are given to us with so much hope and anticipation by people that are touched by their loss of dear ones to this malignancy that I hope I can live up to their expectations and deliver meaningful results to improve the quality and extent of survival of patients with ovarian cancer.”

                Vijayalakshmi Shridhar, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic

Daniel Vallera, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, “Engaging the immune system against ovarian cancer”, $100,000

Past MOCA funding helped discover of a “new lead” immunotherapy drug that utilizes a component of a patient’s own immune system to selectively kill cancer cells. New research will focus on a genetically altered drug called a TriKE to bind and kill ovarian cancer. MOCA funding will be utilized to assemble a team of personnel, experts, physicians and nurses to begin the first patient phase 1 study.

“In today’s climate and with COVID as a factor, it is extremely difficult to obtain government  funding for cancer drug development. What MOCA has accomplished is quite remarkable—filling an urgent need to push the field of ovarian cancer research forward.” 

                –Daniel Vallera, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Watch our video below to hear new details about promising new MOCA-funded projects from the researchers themselves.