Shannon Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.
Indianapolis, IN, United States
Project: Dissecting the role of ARID1A in ovarian cancer using a 3D bio-assembled model of the endometriotic tumor microenvironment
Research Areas: Cancer Biology
Endometriosis, growth of uterus tissue outside the uterus, effects 5 million women in the US and is associated with a 50% increase in the risk of ovarian cancer. Interestingly, women with endometriosis at the time of ovarian cancer diagnosis have a better prognosis because of the specific kinds of ovarian cancers they tend to have. Dr. Hawkins’ study will determine the effects of an important tumor suppressor gene, called ARID1A, in an innovative cellular model of endometriosis-associated ovarian cancer, in order to develop new treatments. Dr. Hawkins will use a method called the Kenzan method which places balls of cells (spheroids) onto a tiny microneedle (Kenzan in Japanese), allowing for the construction of complex living structures similar to building with Lego blocks. The spheroids secrete material and fuse together forming constructs of ovarian cancer within an “endometriotic tumor microenvironment”. The study will test the specific cellular and molecular contributions of ARID1A both in this endometriotic tumor microenvironment and in the tumor itself. The unique 3D model allows the testing of interactions between cells of the tumor and tumor microenvironment, the molecular landscape on a cell-specific level, and the inflammatory molecules involved. These studies will lead to improved drug targets for ovarian cancer for women with endometriosis.