John Liao, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Washington
2018 James A. Harting Pilot Study Award
Development of a vaccine to prevent serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma
High grade serous ovarian cancer does not originate in the ovary, as once thought, but on the fallopian tube. Precancerous fallopian tube cells (called serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma or STIC) can go through a series of malignant changes and metastasize to the ovary and develop into what we know as high grade serous ovarian cancer. As an innovative treatment strategy, Dr. Liao proposes to develop a vaccine that would target the development of STIC which, if eliminated, could ultimately prevent the development of high grade serous ovarian cancer. Dr. Liao and colleagues work on developing vaccines that stimulate a strong response by T-cells of the immune system to kill tumor cells. T-cells only come into tissues if there is something that is not normally present there. The proteins that are different and present in larger than usual amounts are called antigens and identified by T-cells. Dr. Liao’s group has already identified several antigens present in large amounts in STIC compared to normal fallopian tube tissue. Dr. Liao will determine which antigens might be best to include in a vaccine by testing which antigens can promote growth of fallopian tube cells. Targeting those antigens that promote the progression of the cancer would potentially have the most impact on eliminating the tumor. Dr. Liao and colleagues have already made a vaccine targeting three identified STIC antigens. They will immunize mice that are likely to develop STIC and test if they can prevent it. Data generated through this project would be the basis of a fully developed multi-antigen STIC, and consequently high grade serous ovarian cancer, prevention vaccine.