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Scientific Grants

We have funded more than $16 million in cutting-edge ovarian cancer research and studies.

Ovarian Cancer Research Grants

Every year, the Rivkin Center funds promising research in ovarian cancer, selecting researchers and studies through a highly competitive process. Each application is individually reviewed by a panel of nationally recognized experts for its scientific merit, novelty, and potential to affect the prevention, detection, treatment, and understanding of the disease.

Learn about 2024 funding opportunities through the Rivkin Center.







Iain McNeish, MD/PhD

University of Glasgow / Imperial College London

2016 Pilot Study Award: Utilizing CRISPR/Cas9 Technology to Generate Improved Murine Models of Ovarian High Grade Serous Carcinoma

Dr. Iain McNeish developed much needed ovarian cancer mouse models that mimic the genetics of ovarian cancer in humans using the cutting edge CRISPR/Cas9 genetic engineering technology. The mouse models have single or combined mutations in genes known to be mutated in ovarian cancer, including Brca1, Brca2, Pten, Tp53 and Nf1. Dr. McNeish showed that the mouse models behave similarly to human cancers in response to known chemotherapy drugs. This study helped create critical tools that have been shared with 50+ labs worldwide. It will provide the basis for preclinical testing of new drug combinations and for understanding how ovarian tumors develop.

David Pepin, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital

2016 Scientific Scholar Award: AAV9 gene therapy using a novel engineered MIS to treat ovarian cancer

The Rivkin Center funded Dr. David Pepin in 2016 when he was just starting out his lab. He credits the early support from the Rivkin Center as being instrumental in building his ovarian cancer research program using virus-delivered gene therapy to combat the disease. As a result of the Rivkin Scholar Award, Dr. Pepin has received many other grants, including from the Department of Defense, that have allowed him to build on this initial project and other ovarian cancer-related projects.

“Funding during the postdoc to faculty transition is key in securing an independent research path without which it can be very difficult to survive the initial formation of the laboratory. I credit the funding from the Rivkin Center as a key factor in allowing me to do research in ovarian cancer, and has directly contributed to generating the data necessary to apply to larger grants such as the DoD and NIH. This award has allowed me to set in place many new collaborations (which are investigating both detection and treatment) which have benefited me and others, and ultimately will translate into better treatments for ovarian cancer.”

Bo Yu, MD

University of Washington

2017 Cookie Laughlin Bridge Funding Award: The role of fallopian tube microbiome in ovarian carcinogenesis

Dr. Bo Yu is interested in understanding how bacteria in the urogenital tract might be impacting development of ovarian cancer in the fallopian tubes. She received the 2017 Cookie Laughlin Bridge Funding Award to collect preliminary data for a career development grant (K08) from the National Institutes of Health. After generating data with funds from the Cookie Laughlin Bridge Funding Award, Dr. Yu was successful in receiving the K08 career development award which is a five-year grant that will provide funding to allow Dr. Yu do carry out ovarian cancer research in addition to her clinical duties.

“I cannot thank Rivkin foundation enough for supporting ovarian cancer research and for giving new investigators like me an opportunity to start a research career in ovarian cancer.”

Andre Lieber, MD/PhD

University of Washington

2016 Lester and Bernice Smith Challenge Grant Award: Immuno-prophylaxis of ovarian cancer associated with high-risk germline mutations

“Rivkin funding allowed us to prove our hypothesis that in vivo HSC gene therapy with checkpoint inhibitors can be used to reverse tumor growth in a tolerogenic mouse tumor model. Furthermore, it has enabled us to further optimize our in vivo HSC transduction approach and its application for gene therapy of other diseases, including hemoglobinopathies and hemophilia A. In this context, we demonstrated phenotypic correction of thalassemia in mice, which has attracted the attention of the Gates Foundation. This, in turn, resulted in an award to test the safety and efficacy of in vivo HSC gene therapy in monkeys. The data to be collected from this study will be an important milestone towards the clinical translation of our new approach for immuno-prophylaxis of ovarian cancer with high-risk germ line mutations. It will also facilitate raising funds for a first-in-human clinical trial (with an estimated budget of $5-6M).”

To join the Rivkin Center Science email list and receive information for researchers and clinicians about ovarian cancer research grants and symposia send an email to Jackie Lang, PhD.

Talk to your Family

Talking to your family and identifying cancer in your family tree can be a good indicator of your health risks. Download our Family Tree Worksheet here.  Be sure to include yourself, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Get Educated

Know your body and be proactive about your health. Learn about your breast and ovarian health. Learn about the risk factors and signs & symptoms for breast and ovarian cancer.

Trusted Healthcare Provider

Having a relationship with a health care provider you know and trust is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your health care. Click here to find a provider

Higher Risk in the Ashkenazi Jewish Population

In the general population, around 1 in 400 people carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. People of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA mutation, making them 10 times as likely to carry a BRCA mutation as someone in the general population. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you have a BRCA mutation then there is a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to your children, whether they are boys or girls. It’s important to note that these mutations significantly increase risk, but are not a guarantee a person will get cancer.

Why is the Ashkenazi Jewish population at higher risk?

Over 90% of the BRCA mutations found in the Jewish community are one of three “founder mutations”. A founder mutation is a specific gene mutation in a population that was founded by a small group of ancestors that were geographically or culturally isolated. Because the population was isolated, the rate of founder mutations in descendants is much higher than it would be if the population were larger and co-mingling with more genetically diverse populations. A large expansion in the population caused the current high frequency of the mutations in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. If you are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, the chance of carrying a BRCA gene mutation compared to the general population is increased tenfold. BRCA mutations can be passed down from either your mother’s or father’s side, and may be associated with any of the following cancers:
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer, fallopian tube, peritoneal cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Colon Cancer

Ready to take action? Knowledge is power. Take this short quiz to be proactive about your health.

Genes 101

Our bodies are made of many tiny building blocks called cells. Our cells contain a copy of our genome – all of the DNA genetic code we inherited from our parents. Our genome is organized into 46 chromosomes, 23 inherited from mom and 23 from dad. Each chromosome has hundreds or thousands of genes. Each gene has the instructions to make a protein that may control the structure or function of cells, can determine many things including how tall we are or the color of our eyes. Genes also contain instructions for many things inside of us that we cannot see, such as how our bones are formed or how our heart works. Each gene is made up of molecules called nucleic acids (A, T, C, and G). The specific sequence of the nucleic acids holds the instructions that control all the components and their functions in cells.

If the DNA sequence is changed, like a spelling mistake, the instructions may not make sense. The technical term for this change is “mutation,” meaning there is a change to the usual genetic code that may change the instructions stored in the gene. A mutation in a gene that repairs DNA damage or controls cell growth can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Sporadic vs Hereditary Cancers:

Ovarian and breast cancer can be either sporadic or hereditary. Sporadic cancers make up the vast majority (85-90%) of ovarian and breast cancers and are not associated with family history of either cancer or inherited cancer-associated mutations. Sporadic cancers arise from genetic mutations acquired in some cells of the body by events part of normal metabolism and environmental factors. This type of cancer can happen to anyone. Most acquired gene mutations are not shared among relatives or passed on to children.

Hereditary (also known as inherited, or familial) cancers are those that occur due to genetic mutations that are inherited from mom or dad. Other blood relatives may also share these same gene mutations. Parents give one copy of each gene to their children. If a parent has a genetic mutation in a gene, each of their children have a 50% chance of inheriting that mutation. Therefore, even in families with hereditary cancer, not all family members inherit the mutation that is causing cancer, and their risk of cancer is similar to the average person in the general population. Individuals who are suspected to have a family history with high incidence of ovarian, breast, and other cancers may be offered genetic testing to try to find the specific genetic mutation that may put them at risk. Importantly, individuals who do not have a known genetic mutation but have high incidence of ovarian, breast, or other cancers in their families are still considered at higher risk for developing those cancers.

Hereditary cancers often occur at an earlier age than the sporadic form of the same cancer, so experts often recommend starting cancer screening at a younger age for individuals at high risk for hereditary cancer. Hereditary cancers can also be more aggressive than the sporadic form of the same cancer. Individuals who have inherited a gene mutation may be at a higher risk for more than one type of cancer.

BRCA 1 and BRCA 2: Most Common hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

The genes that are most commonly involved in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) are BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes are named for their link to breast (BR) cancer (CA), but they are also linked to ovarian cancer risk as well as other cancers. Both women and men can inherit mutations in these HBOC genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes that have a usual role in our body of providing instructions on repairing DNA damage and preventing cancer. When a family has an inherited mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2, this leads to an increase in cancer risk. Not every man or woman who has inherited a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene will develop cancer, but people who have a mutation do have a significanlty increased chance of developing cancer, particularly cancer of the breasts or ovaries.

While breast and ovarian cancers are the most common cancers diagnosed in people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, the risk of some other cancers is also increased. Men with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have a higher risk of early-onset prostate cancer than men without mutations in either gene. Other cancers seen at increased rates, particularly in individuals with BRCA2 mutations, include pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Researchers are continuing to find new genes that are involved in hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer so it is important to follow up with a genetic counselor on a regular basis if hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is likely in your family.

Talk to your family about your health history and take the Assess Your Risk quiz here