Posted May 7, 2015
Elizabeth Poole, Ph.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital
Geeta Mehta, Ph.D., University of Michigan
In fiscal year 2009 (FY09), one Dean and seven Early-Career Investigator awards marked the realization of the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program's vision of a unique, virtual Ovarian Cancer Academy supporting the development of career ovarian cancer researchers. The Ovarian Cancer Academy brings together a group of talented and highly committed Early-Career Investigators (ECIs) with their mentors and an Academy Dean in synergistic partnership, to help establish the ECIs as the next generation of successful and highly respected ovarian cancer researchers. In FY12, the Ovarian Cancer Academy added two new ECI Awardees, Dr. Elizabeth Poole and Dr. Geeta Mehta. Both Drs. Poole and Mehta share the common dream of conducting ovarian cancer research that will impact women's lives and health.
Dr. Elizabeth Poole: Identifying novel modifiable ovarian cancer risk factors.
With a Master's from Emory University and a Doctorate from the University of Washington, both in Epidemiology, Dr. Elizabeth Poole wanted a research career that would offer her a chance to really make a difference. She found this in ovarian cancer research, where she firmly believes that research on prevention and survival will have a positive impact in women's lives. Dr. Poole's Ovarian Cancer Academy - ECI Award involves searching for new ways to prevent ovarian cancer, focusing predominantly on metabolomic profiling and ovarian cancer risk. She implements advances in high-throughput techniques to identify previously unknown biomarkers for ovarian cancer.
As little is known about whether lifestyle changes can impact ovarian cancer survival or quality of life, Dr. Poole believes her greatest challenge is to identify meaningful lifestyle changes that women may make to either prevent getting ovarian cancer or to improve their chances of survival once diagnosed. While Dr. Poole is fortunate to be part of the dynamic research environment in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, she is extremely grateful for the dedication of the Nurses' Health Study participants who contributed to an invaluable resource that includes 30 years of follow-up data, biennial questionnaires, and blood and urine specimens that allows for such studies.
Dr. Geeta Mehta: Creating in vitro environments that match key features of in vivo tissues.
Dr. Geeta Mehta's Masters in Chemical Engineering from Michigan State University and Doctorate in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan give her a unique perspective on creating three-dimensional in vitro microenvironments that recapitulate physiologically relevant features of in vivo tissue environments. While researching in vitro models for tumor biology, she became intrigued with the three-dimensional nature of ovarian cancers and ovarian cancer spheroids that shed into the abdominal cavity and metastasize to other organs. This revelation piqued her scientific interest and she now uses her extensive experience to create physiologically appropriate three-dimensional in vitro model systems to study ovarian cancer. Dr. Mehta's Ovarian Cancer Academy - ECI Award involves developing a high-throughput platform for patient-derived ovarian cancer spheroids that may lead to a more accurate means to screen for effective anti-cancer therapeutics.
As an Assistant Professor in the departments of Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Dr. Mehta is steadfastly focused on the challenge of standardizing her platform to achieve consistent results across different patient-derived ovarian cancer specimen. Her team also plans to directly determine patients' responses to experimental agents using xenograft models of ovarian cancer. Dr. Mehta sees her research team's ability to work across the scientific boundaries of multiple disciplines including Cell Biology, Oncology, Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science, as their greatest strength.