2015 Women’s Health Research Program (WHRP) Grant Awards

2015 Women’s Health Research Program (WHRP) Grant Awards

The Women’s Health Research Program (WHRP) has awarded two grants for research projects. Ling Wang, MD, PhD, Instructor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, along with Qing “Robert” Miao, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery, received funding for a project titled Effects of Ascites on the Phenotype and Chemoresistance Alteration of Ovarian Cancer Cells. Kathleen Schmainda, PhD, Professor of Radiology, Judith Hibbard, MD, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Rashmi Sood, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology, and Magdalena Chrzanowska-Wodnicka, PhD, Associate Investigator at the Blood Center of Wisconsin received funding for their project Human Placenta Project: the MCW Initiative.

The program was started by Janet Rader, MD, Jack A. and Elaine D. Klieger Professor and Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is directed by Dr. Rader and Ramani Ramchandran, PhD, Vice Chair of Research for Obstetrics and Gynecology. The program is committed to securing the lifelong health of women through research findings that lead to improved clinical practices and patient outcomes

Overcoming acquired chemo-resistance is a major challenge in treating ovarian cancer patients. Ascites is a common complication in ovarian cancer. More than one third of ovarian cancer patients present with ascites at diagnosis, and almost all have ascites at recurrence. Drs. Ling Wang,

Qing Robert Miao and Erin Bishop have formed an interdisciplinary research team to investigate if ovarian cancer patients’ ascites are unique tumor environment niche promoting the resistance to chemotherapy. We will culture different various ovarian cancer cell lines in the ascites collected from ovarian cancer patients. We will determine if ascites change the ovarian cancer cell phenotype to acquire more resistance to conventional chemotherapeutic drugs. Furthermore, we will elucidate the underlying mechanism promoting tumor resistance. The long-term goal of this project is to identify new therapeutic targets and approaches for increasing the susceptibility of ovarian cancer to conventional chemotherapy.

Dr. Schmainda, Professor of Radiology & Biophysics, Vice Chair of Research along with co-PIs

Magdalena Chrzanowska-Wodnicka, PhD, Assistant Adjunct Professor Pharmacology & Toxicology, Rashmi Sood, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Judith Hibbard, MD, Vice Chairman & Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology have brought together experts at MCW to revolutionize the understanding of human placenta function, a new and significant initiative of the National Institute of Child Health and Development. Their initial goal is to develop the protocols and collect preliminary imaging and tissue data addressing specific disease processes such as preeclampsia (PE).

PE is a potentially fatal gestational syndrome observed in about 5% of pregnancies. There is no cure for PE; its management often requires delivery of the fetus. PE is often accompanied by fetal growth restriction and prematurity (due to indicated early delivery), both of which cause permanent adaptive changes that predispose babies to adult neuroendocrine, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Therefore, a clear and urgent need to develop clinically useful tools that can characterize and predict PE is needed.

Thus, the goal of this proposal is to implement and optimize MRI methods to assess placenta, and to begin to examine a cohort of PE pregnancies and gestation-matched controls for differences in peripheral inflammation and placental Rap1 signaling. The tools developed and the preliminary data obtained will enable us to submit a competitive NIH application focused on PE, as well as position us to broaden the impact through the study of many other pregnancy complications.

Drs. Wang and Miao received a six-month, $30,000 grant to conduct their research project. Drs. Schmainda, Hibbard, Sood and Chrzanowska-Wodnicka received a six-month, $20,000 grant to conduct their research project. Funding for these WHRP awards are made possible by the Dr. Ralph and Marian C. Falk Medical Research Trust. They will report on their findings at the WHRP seminar series, and will use these projects to generate extramural funding.

A goal of the WHRP is to build the research capacity of the OBGYN Department in areas that address the unique challenges women face. These challenges include a spectrum of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and problems associated with aging. Dr. Rader encouraged scientists to submit projects that met the Institute of Medicine’s definition of women’s health: health conditions that are specific to women; that are more common or more serious in women; that have distinct causes or manifestations in women; that have different outcomes or treatments in women; or that have high morbidity or mortality in women.