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Ovarian cancer research receives $75,000 boost at Hormel Institute

Hormel Institute scientist receives grant for novel research

Dr. Ilana Chefetz has been awarded a $75,000 Rivkin Center Pilot Award to fund new research into ovarian cancer.

Dr. Chefetz leads the Cancer Stem Cells and Necroptosis lab at The Hormel Institute and her study “AMPK-alpha-like proteins in a high grade serous ovarian cancer” will look for a new way to target ovarian cancer cells to keep them from coming back after treatment.

“Cancer cells need energy to grow. They can use different sources of energy and if one of the sources is deprived or blocked they can adjust and use an alternative source,” said Dr. Chefetz, who last year organized and co-chaired the Ovarian Cancer Midwest Focus conference in Minneapolis. “In this proposal we will study two metabolism-associated genes that have been previously characterized in neurodegenerative disorders, elucidating their importance in ovarian cancer chemo-resistance.”

Dr Chefetz says the study is extremely important as they will aim to identify the metabolic “Achilles heel” of these cells in order to design specific targeted therapies to prevent recurrent ovarian cancer.

Innovative ideas are important to moving cancer research forward toward discoveries and improved treatments. Pilot or seed grants fund research into those novel ideas and scientists are able to gain the necessary initial data — the next step is a major grant from federal sources such as NIH or DOD funding more comprehensive research. The Rivkin Center Pilot Award supports new ideas for research into ovarian cancer. Local donations such as for Paint the Town Pink, Bowling for the Battle, the Eagles Cancer Telethon and Karl’s Tourney also provide internal seed grant funding for researchers at The Hormel Institute.

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.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer for women in the U.S.  The American Cancer Society estimates that over 21,000 women will receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2020. While ovarian cancer is mostly found in older women, it can be found in younger women and is difficult to detect in its early stages due to symptoms similar to those of other conditions. Since the disease is often found in later stages, continued research is important to find new and improved treatments.