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How Ovarian Cancer Can Kill Itself – Discovered by UH Engineer

By: 

Laurie Fickman
Pinar Kanlikilicer is fighting to end ovarian cancer with her discovery
Pinar Kanlikilicer is fighting to end ovarian cancer with her discovery

A 2013 graduate of the UH biomedical engineering doctoral program, now completing her fellowship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, has discovered the existence of a tumor suppressor -- a micro ribonucleic acid (miRNA) -- inside ovarian cancer cells that could lead to new ways to combat the deadly disease.

“The biggest problem with ovarian cancer is that it is generally diagnosed at very late stages,” said Pinar Kanlikilicer, who studied at the University of Houston under Metin Akay, founding chair and John S. Dunn Endowed Chair Professor in biomedical engineering.

“I would like to discover a biomarker that enables early diagnoses in ovarian cancer patients which may prolong their survival rates,” Pinar added.

She seems well on her way. Her discovery about the exosomal tumor suppressor is now published in the Journal of Cancer Research, making her the first Ph.D. student from the Cullen College of Engineering and Akay’s lab to earn such a distinction.

“Pinar’s intellectual contributions, high ethics, dedication and elegance mean a lot to our lab and young department,” said Akay.

Pinar’s work bores right through a cancer cell where she noticed it releases tumor suppressors via exosomes, or vesicles that contain genetic material. But tumors are stronger and they discard the one thing that could destroy them – the suppressors.

“We can mimic these tumor suppressors and if we use them we can enrich the cells with tumor suppressors,” she said.

At M.D. Anderson, Pinar’s work focuses on experimental therapeutics and the design of cancer drugs. She, along with the rest of humankind, is hoping to one day develop her discovery into a medicine.  

Read the journal article here.
 

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