The University of Toledo Medical Research Society is awarding its first grant to a faculty member working to develop a life-saving ovarian cancer treatment.The $50,000 grant to Dr. Kathryn Eisenmann, assistant professor in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, will support her research to develop a drug that will allow cancer-fighting treatments to more effectively penetrate tumor cells.
“Many anti-cancer drugs work poorly because they do not penetrate tumors. Tumor cells are packed so tightly that drugs cannot easily pass through these cells,” Eisenmann said. “My research is going to look at a new drug that blocks tumor cells from binding so tightly together. If successful, combining this new drug with current drugs used to treat ovarian cancer will allow more of the cancer-fighting drugs to enter the tumor and kill the tumor.”
This research is vital because ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. About 200,000 women in the United States live with this cancer and 55 percent of women diagnosed die within five years.
“I am so thankful to receive this funding because it is a highly innovative idea that could lead to novel therapies for this deadly disease,” Eisenmann said.
Howard Newman, UT associate vice president for development, said the Medical Research Society met June 11 to review three faculty proposals. The society, which consists of 20 individuals representing community and medical leadership, selected Eisenmann’s proposal because she had potential to secure additional funding and make a significant difference in the fight against ovarian cancer.
The society’s founding member, Marianne Ballas, the owner of Ballas Buick GMC and a member of the UT College of Medicine Advisory Council, founded the Medical Research Society in 2014 to help junior faculty who are just starting their scientific career. Since then, the society has gained 20 members who made $25,000 commitments and garnered a $1 million matching donation from The University of Toledo Physicians.
“Junior faculty need the most encouragement,” Ballas said. “The funding environment is so difficult these days. This is geared toward scientists who have developed their research, but need some more money to develop it further before applying for a larger grant.”
Newman said the National Institutes of Health used to fund more than 30 percent of the grants applied for by junior faculty, but in recent years the number has decreased to 10 percent due to reduction in federal funding. Having this grant will better position Eisenmann to apply for federal funding to further advance her work, he said.