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Dynamic Interactions of the Ovarian-Fallopian Axis in High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer related death in women. If detected early, the chance of survival is over 90%, but most women are diagnosed in the late stages of disease when cancer has spread throughout the peritoneal space. It is now recognized that a large percentage of high grade serous ovarian cancers arise in the fallopian tube and colonize the ovary as the primary metastatic step. Since one of the largest tumor masses tends to be found in the ovary after diagnosis, this raises the possibility that the ovary contributes to tumor spread and aggressiveness. One of the risk factors associated with ovarian cancer is the lifetime number of ovulations.

Few models are currently available that allow the process of ovulation and the development of ovarian cancer to be studied. To address this gap, we propose to create in vitro models of the fallopian-ovarian interaction within a normal ovulation context to examine key aspects of the ovarian microenvironment during tumor initiation and progression. These results will be compared to in vivo murine models.

Our goals are:

  1. To define the contribution of ovulation and follicular fluid on tumor initiation in the fallopian tube.
  2. To engineer an ovarian metastasis model and investigate the role of versican as a secreted factor enhancing tumor cell colonization of the ovary.
  3. To test the importance of multicellular aggregates on metastasis to the ovary from the fallopian tube.


Joanna E. Burdette, Ph.D.
Burdette Lab at UIC

Dr. Joanna E. Burdette earned her B.S. from Emory University and her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern under the direction of Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff. She is currently a Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy. She has served as the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Pharmacy since 2014. Her research has helped to demonstrate that high grade serous ovarian cancer can arise from the fallopian tube.

Jonathan Coppeta, Ph.D.

Dr. Jonathan Coppeta earned his B.S. from Bates College and his Ph.D. from Tufts University in Medford MA. He is currently a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff in the Bioengineering Division at Draper.   His research focuses on creating single and multi-organ models for drug discovery, safety testing, and disease modeling.

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