September 29, 2017

The Eden Hall Foundation has granted $3 million to Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) to establish the Comprehensive Ovarian Biology Research Center at MWRI and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, which will bring together biology and oncology researchers to study the molecular and physiological factors that shape ovarian development. UPMC will match the grant, bringing the total funding for the new center to $6 million.

Researchers in the Comprehensive Ovarian Biology Research Center will study hormone production and fertility as well as menopausal changes that may generate critically needed data on ovarian biology across different ages. This will be bolstered by research on the role of extra-ovarian influences — such as the immune response, microbiome, diet and environmental factors — and how they shape disease risk at different points of a woman’s life, from premature ovarian aging to ovarian cancer.

Dr. Ronald Buckanovich

In part, the grant aided in attracting Ronald Buckanovich, M.D., Ph.D., a renowned physician-scientist and expert in gynecologic cancers. Buckanovich recently was appointed as a professor of medicine of gynecology and reproductive services in Pitt’s School of Medicine. Along with his team, Buckanovich recently developed a novel laboratory tumor model to study the role of human cancer stem cells that have been proposed to drive cancer recurrence. Importantly, the model closely mimics the human tumor microenvironment, allowing scientists to test new cancer therapies. In addition, his team also has introduced novel diagnostic serum biomarkers to potentially screen for ovarian cancer in its earliest stages.

“We are thrilled to bring a researcher of Dr. Buckanovich’s caliber on board at MWRI. His extensive background in immunology and visionary expertise in cancer stem cell research enhances our already strong portfolio of innovative scientists,” said Michael Annichine, chief executive officer, MWRI.

“I am extremely excited to join the team at MWRI because of the chance to collaborate with scientists who are researching ovarian development, which is parallel to cancer’s development,” said Buckanovich. “The ability to be integrative and comprehensive makes this opportunity at MWRI so promising when it comes to getting closer to detecting, preventing and curing ovarian cancer.”

This most recent grant for the Comprehensive Ovarian Biology Research Center furthers Eden Hall’s mission to advance the impact on women’s health. In 2013, the Eden Hall Foundation donated a critical piece of equipment, the Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorter, which performs advanced cell sorting. It aids researchers in areas of women’s cancers, fertility and reproduction, pregnancy and obesity.

“This grant will help to put all of the puzzle pieces together when it comes to preventing, treating and curing arguably the deadliest cancer that women face,” said Sylvia Fields, executive director of the Eden Hall Foundation. “This award will allow MWRI to align all the pieces that the world-class researchers, working side-by-side with outstanding clinical staff, have worked tirelessly to create in their quest to conquer ovarian cancer.”