Yunfei Wen, PhD
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
2014 Margaret Sherman Bridge Funding Award
Promoting Autophagic Catabolism in Chemoresistant Ovarian Cancer
Cells routinely remove unnecessary or damaged cellular components by a process called autophagy in which small pockets of enzymes inside cells degrade those components and recycle them for other uses. Dr. Wen has discovered a way to trigger autophagy in tumor cells that may become a useful therapy for ovarian cancer. She has targeted the protein prolactin (PRL) and its receptor (PRLR) as they are easily accessible on the surface of ovarian tumor cells and are responsible for promoting tumor growth. When she blocked the interaction of PRL and PRLR with a small peptide, multiple pockets of enzymes accumulated in tumor cells which caused whole cell degradation leading to autophagic cell death. In this project, Dr. Wen will look at whether autophagy can be used to kill chemoresistant ovarian cancer cells and, more importantly, cancer stem cells in order to prevent cancer recurrence and metastasis.