The State of Illinois’ Penny Severns Research Fund awarded a grant to Dr. Indrani Bagchi to study ovarian tumorigenesis using a transgenic mouse model generated in Dr. Bagchi’s laboratory. This research model spontaneously forms ovarian tumors. Dr. Mary Laws, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory, has shown that decreasing endogenous estrogen production in this model mouse by using an aromatase inhibitor, results in a decrease in ovarian tumor growth, indicating that estrogen is capable of driving ovarian tumorigenesis. This observation correlates with multiple epidemiological studies which have concluded that peri- or post- menopausal women who take estrogen as a hormone replacement therapy have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological disease with a dismal overall five-year survival rate of 46%. Dr. Bagchi’s research will shed-light onto the molecular pathways which are regulated by estrogen during ovarian tumorigenesis. This basic science research is likely to lead to translational research developing human treatments of ovarian cancer.
The Illinois Breast and Cervical and Cancer Research Act was signed into law in 1993 by Governor Jim Edgar. Governor George Ryan renamed the fund the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund in 1999 to honor the life of the late state Senator Penny Severns who dedicated her life to public service and breast cancer awareness. Senator Severns passed away at the age of 46 after a 4-year battle with breast cancer. Later in 2005, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich changed the mission of the fund to include ovarian cancer research. More information about this fund and other funds for women’s health supported by the Illinois Department of Public Health can be found on the following website: http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/womenshealth/fund.htm