News Release

Detroit researchers receive Department of Defense grant to assist in discovering new treatments for ovarian cancer

Grant and Award Announcement

Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research

Dr. Gen Sheng Wu, Wayne State University and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute


Dr. Gen Sheng Wu will lead a study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense that aims to find new treatments for ovarian cancer that will increase survival and remission rates.

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Credit: Wayne State University

DETROIT — Gen Sheng Wu, Ph.D., professor of oncology in the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

This four-year, $924,000 grant will benefit Wu’s study, “Targeting Dual-Specificity Phosphatase 1 in Platinum Resistance in Ovarian Cancer,” which aims to discover improved treatments for ovarian cancer.

“Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest diseases,” said Wu. “It’s difficult to diagnose early and most cases are only found in the late stages. The late stage survival rate is approximately 30%. After surgery, chemotherapy is the other primary treatment; however, patients develop a resistance to this treatment very quickly. It’s a major problem with ovarian cancer and it’s our major challenge in the field.”

The overarching challenge that this research will address is the elimination of drug-resistant ovarian cancer cells using new treatment regimens. Specifically, Wu and his research team have identified a resistance mechanism that involves a protein called dual-specificity phosphatase 1 (DUSP1).

Wu believes this could be an important step in addressing ovarian cancer because it has the potential to improve the efficacy of platinum-based therapies. Platinum-based therapies are the standard first-line chemotherapy for most patients with ovarian cancer. However, almost all patients receiving platinum eventually relapse and die from metastatic disease, mainly due to primary and acquired resistance to the treatment.

“With this grant, we will follow up  findings that phosphatases can remove the phosphate group and thus shut down MAPK signaling,” said Wu. “Based on this mechanism, we are studying how this reaction works and how implementing it may increase survival and remission rates.”

“Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women, and this important funding will help Dr. Wu and his research team to help address this critical challenge,” said Ezemenari Obasi, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State University. “Dr. Wu’s work has the potential to make a lifesaving difference for patients in our community and beyond.”

The award number for this Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program grant is HT9425-24-1-0694.

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