Esha Madan, PhD; Virginia Commonwealth University
Project Title: To study early-detection biomarker potential of Fitness Fingerprint pathway in Ovarian Cancer.
Ovarian cancer (OC) is one of the leading causes of lethal gynecologic malignancy. Because of the lack of an early diagnosis method, patients with OC are usually diagnosed at an advanced stage and have a poor prognosis posing an urgent need to understand the origins, relapse, and targeted ways for early detection of OC.
Dr. Madan aims to study an innovative and novel phenomenon “Cell Competition” (CC) and “Cell Fitness” (CF) which exists between the OC cells and the surrounding internal tumor microenvironment (TME). Her lab’s preliminary data and recent publication with Nature show that high expression of “Win” in tumor and “Lose” in surrounding tissue is a prerequisite for tumor growth. Their aim is to exploit the innovative aspect of targeting CC between OC and surrounding stroma to gain early biomarker benefits. They have found that the cancer cells release a novel molecular signal, in the form of a Long Non-Coding RNA (a piece of genetic material not translated into a protein), named Tu-Stroma. Tu-Stroma is released from cancer cells and small cancer lesions, ultimately making the surrounding cells less competitive. It is traced in blood samples, specifically from OC patients and not from healthy subjects. They aim to identify the early detection biomarker potential of Tu-Stroma in OC patients.