Toni Antalis, PhD
University of Maryland, Baltimore
2022 Rosser Family Pilot Study Award
Emerging roles of MASP activation in ovarian cancer metastasis and acquired chemoresistance
While ovarian cancer responds well to initial treatments, it frequently returns due to acquired chemotherapy resistance. Although chemotherapies aim slow or stop tumor growth, cancer cells continue to evolve between chemotherapy cycles. They acquire properties that allow them to resist the chemotherapy and, eventually, can develop into life-threatening metastatic tumors. There is an urgent need to better understand the molecular alterations that are responsible for ovarian cancer metastasis.
Dr. Antalis plans to uncover the details of one of the mechanisms that tumors use to become resistant to chemotherapy. Her research group discovered that chemotherapy inadvertently activates a type of protein, called membrane-anchored serine proteases (MASPs), in tumor cells. They identified two specific MASPs, matriptase and hepsin, that are overactivated in many metastatic ovarian cancers. With Rivkin-funding, Dr. Antalis aims to discover the chemotherapy-induced molecular pathways that are responsible for MASP activation and chemoresistance. This will allow her to identify more effective therapeutic strategies that could specifically inhibit this process and make metastatic ovarian tumors sensitive to chemotherapy again, improving overall survival of this disease.