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Release: June 22, 1999

UI researcher receives NIH grant to study ovarian cancer

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa Health Care physician has been awarded a Reproductive Scientist Development Program (RSDP) fellowship to study the metastasis of ovarian cancer, or how it spreads to other organs in the body.

Anil K. Sood, M.D., UI assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology received a two-year grant of almost $150,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with co-funding from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The highly competitive grants are designed to cultivate the work of scientists conducting basic reproductive research. The award marks the first time a UI faculty member has received an RSPD grant. The UI is one of four institutions nationwide receiving such grants this year.

The grant will help provide salary support and cover lab expenses for Sood, who specializes in gynecologic oncology, to study ovarian cancer for two years, beginning July 1.

Sood will investigate how the p53 gene is a factor in the spread of ovarian cancer to other organs such as the liver and lungs.

"Normally the gene prevents cancerous changes in cells but when mutated it loses this protective capability," Sood said. "Nationally, no one has yet studied this in depth as it relates to ovarian cancer.

"The study results should help us better understand how ovarian cancer spreads and why some people are more predisposed to the genetic defect that can cause metastases to develop. We can then begin to identify ways to fix the gene and prevent the spread of cancer."

Gene therapy or the use of a growth factor that produces new blood vessels may eventually offer ways to prevent the spread of ovarian cancer to other organs.

Mary J.C. Hendrix, Ph.D., UI professor and head of anatomy and cell biology and associate director of basic research at the UI Cancer Center, will serve as Sood's mentor in conjunction with the grant.

Sood, who joined the UI faculty in July 1998, received his bachelor's degree from Davidson College. He received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina. After completing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Sood held a three-year fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the UI.

Richard E. Buller, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the gynecologic oncology division, said, "There's been a lack of basic research in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Sood will provide the NIH-caliber basic research the field needs."

Buller also holds a secondary appointment in the UI department of pharmacology. Hendrix is deputy director of the UI Cancer Center.