Awardees & Updates – 2019

2019 Gridley McKim-Smith Women’s Health Fellowship Awards

Ally Young is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Pharmacy. She received at BS in molecular biology and a BA in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Area of Study: EVATAR, human female reproductive tract-on-a-chip, as a platform for studying high grade serous ovarian cancer and developing novel chemotherapeutics.

Summary: High grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) is the most common and lethal type of ovarian cancer; survival rates have not improved in 50 years. Recent research suggests that HGSOC may originate in the fallopian tube and that ovaries also may play a role in oncogenesis. There are no models that incorporate both reproductive tract tissues, fallopian tube and ovary function for testing drugs. This study seeks to test a new technology, EVATAR, which aims to allow for testing targeted chemotherapeutics in a setting that is physiologically mimicking HGSOC mechanisms and initiation in the fallopian tube as a means to improve research and treatments for this deadly disease. Ally wrote that “issues that impact women, such as women’s cancers, have always ignited a passion in me personally.” She plans to pursue a career in gynecologic oncology.

John Lewis Etter is a MD/PhD candidate in cancer epidemiology at the Jacobs School of Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo. He received an MPH in epidemiology from State University of New York at Buffalo and a BS in biochemistry and applied mathematics from University of Rochester.

Area of Study: Investigating the role of X-chromosome inactivation in ovarian cancer

Summary: There is a great need to improve treatments and develop prevention of ovarian cancer which has a survival rate of less than 50% because it is rarely found at an early stage. This lab previously found that certain ovarian cancer patients carried an X-linked ovarian cancer susceptibility gene variant. This study plans to investigate this further in order to develop screening tools for identifying patients at high risk or early stages of the disease as a target for improving outcomes. John wrote that “as far back as I can remember, I’ve aspired toward a career in cancer. It is my goal…to develop therapies to reduce ovarian cancer incidence and mortality [and use] these therapies in my own clinical practice.”