HERA Awards 2013 Sean Patrick Science Grant

September 11, 2013

Collaborative Grant to University of Minnesota Duo
Drs. Vallera and Kaufman Receive $50k Grant for Ovarian Cancer Stem Cell Research

DENVER – Sept. 9, 2013 The HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation, a nationally recognized ovarian cancer nonprofit, proudly awards its 2013 Sean Patrick Multidisciplinary Collaborative Grant to Dr. Daniel Vallera and Dr. Daniel Kaufman from the University of Minnesota for their research into “Recruiting the Immune System to Attack Ovarian Cancer.” The Sean Patrick Multidisciplinary Collaborative Grant is an annual award providing $50,000 for a cross-disciplinary collaborative research project focused on the cause, early detection, treatment or understanding of ovarian cancer. The grant will fund the pair’s innovative research into targeting ovarian cancer stem cells using the Natural Killers (NK) cells of the immune system to destroy ovarian cancer.

“The primary goal is to develop a new drug that targets ovarian cancer stem cells – the cells responsible for drug resistance,” said Dr. Vallera. “More specifically, the Natural Killer (NK) cells of the immune system carry toxins and enzymes that kill their targets. So, by targeting them to ovarian cancer stem cells, we’ve developed a natural means of selectively destroying ovarian cancer. The idea is that once cancer has become drug resistant, attack the cancer stem cells that are the root cause of the resistance.”

Sean Patrick, for whom the grant was named, was a champion for innovative ovarian cancer research. She was frustrated that the prognosis for women with ovarian cancer had not changed in decades and by the disproportionate amount of government funds that went to other cancers. To change this course, she founded the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation in 2002 with the mission of stopping the loss of women from ovarian cancer by promoting Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness.

Sean believed that therapies with the most potential are formulated by combining great ideas from different labs and fields. This grant honors that vision and aims to give scientists the opportunity to work together and test ideas that may not be fundable by other agencies.

“The work that Drs. Vallera and Kaufman are doing is exactly what the Sean Patrick grant was intended to support,” said Meg Steitz, executive director of HERA. “Without supporting advances in research and new ways of thinking about how to treat ovarian cancer, survival rates for women with the disease will remain low. Far too many women are lost to ovarian cancer each year. Through research, we hope to contribute to a change in those outcomes.”

According to the American Cancer Society, one in 72 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime. In 2013, it is estimated that about 22,240 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and about 14,230 women will die from the disease. With early detection, about 94 percent will survive longer than five years after diagnosis. Currently, however, only 20 percent of ovarian cancer is caught early because there is NO effective early detection test. It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer deaths in women and accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

For a detailed overview of Drs. Vallera and Kaufman’s research, click here.

About the HERA Foundation:
Established in 2002, the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to stop the loss of women from ovarian cancer by promoting Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness. As a nationally recognized ovarian cancer organization, HERA provides funding for cutting-edge research grants to scientists at respected medical institutions. In so doing, HERA attracts more young researchers to expand the scientific understanding of ovarian cancer while improving the lives of those battling the disease. In addition, HERA awards grants to local community groups to raise awareness about the disease in novel and unusual ways. More information is available at www.herafoundation.org.

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