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Upcoming distinguished lecturer Patricia Donahoe

By Angelika Zaremba
September 2010

Patricia Donahoe, M.D.
Donahoe has been honored many times for her work on MIS. Her dream is to see it developed as a therapeutic agent for ovarian and other reproductive cancers. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Donahoe)

NIEHS will welcome the first speaker in its 2010-2011 Distinguished Lecture Series Sept. 14, when Patricia Donahoe, M.D., addresses the potential of Mullerian inhibiting substance (MIS) in ovarian cancer treatment. Hosted by NIEHS Principal Investigator and Chief of the Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Kenneth Korach, Ph.D., Donahoe will discuss "Chemotherapeutic Agents vs. Mullerian Inhibiting Substance on Stem/Progenitor Cells in Human Ovarian Cancer."

Donahoe( Exit NIEHS is the Marshall K. Bartlett Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, the director of Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories at Massachusetts General Hospital, an associate member of the Broad Institute, and a senior faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. She served as president of the Boston Surgical Society and is president-elect of the American Pediatric Surgical Association.

Donahoe was elected to membership of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Medicine. The National Cancer Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have funded her seminal research continuously for 30 years.

The Donahoe group( Exit NIEHS specializes in developmental biology and genetics. One of the group's major focuses is the potential of MIS, also known as anti-Mullerian hormone, as an anticancer agent. During development, this gonadal protein hormone causes regression of Mullerian structures in fetal males. The group discovered that as a naturally occurring growth inhibitor, MIS inhibits cell growth and induces apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells and other reproductive tumors.

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Donahoe's laboratory is also investigating the differences between ovarian somatic stem cells and ovarian cancer stem cells. The group is interested in the molecular mechanisms of sex differentiation and is searching for gene defects that cause congenital anomalies. One of the group's goals is to design in utero pharmacologic therapies to reduce the severity of abnormalities at birth.

MIS is now in development as a novel treatment for cancer, and preclinical tests are underway in preparation for phase I clinical trials in human ovarian cancer patients.

(Angelika Zaremba, Ph.D., is a visiting postdoctoral fellow in the NIEHS Laboratory of Signal Transduction Inositol Signaling Group.)

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