The Hormel Institute Scientist Receives $400,000 Grant for Research That Could Lead to a Better Understanding of the Cause of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women

AUSTIN, Minn. – The Hormel Institute’s Rafael Contreras-Galindo, PhD, Assistant Professor and leader of the Genome Instability and Chromosome Biology research section, has received a grant titled “Centromeres and Ovarian Cancer.” The two year, $400,000 R21 grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Dr. Contreras-Galindo’s research is related to the Human Genome Project, a project led by an international group of researchers looking to comprehensively study the DNA (known as a genome) of human populations. As part of this project, researchers uncovered the missing pieces of the human genome, called centromeres. Centromeres make up the centrally located DNA sequences of all human chromosomes.

“My lab has made further steps in centromere research, discovering that centromere DNA sequences in specific chromosomes are markedly deleted in ovarian cancer cells, suggesting that centromere mutations are associated with this disease,” Dr. Contreras-Galindo said.

Ovarian Cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. This year alone, nearly 20,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and nearly 13,000 will die from the disease. Dr. Contreras-Galindo is hopeful this research will lead to a better understanding of what causes this deadly disease, eventually leading to new treatments.

“We will be using cutting-edge technology to modify specific centromere DNA sequences in normal fallopian tube epithelial cells, the origin of most ovarian cancer. This will allow us to gain insight into the role that centromere mutations play in ovarian carcinogenesis,” said Dr. Contreras-Galindo.

This R21 was awarded by the National Cancer Institute, one of the most competitive grants of the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Contreras-Galindo is a member of the Genetics Mechanisms of Cancer division of the Masonic Cancer Center and the Ovarian Cancer Supergroup at the University of Minnesota.

The Hormel Institute is an independent biomedical research department within the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research. Collaborative research partners include Masonic Cancer Center UMN (a Comprehensive Cancer Center as designated by the National Cancer Institute, N.I.H.), Mayo Clinic, and many other leading research centers worldwide. The Hormel Institute, which tripled in size in 2008 and doubled again in size in 2016, is home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge research technologies and expert scientists. Over the next few years, The Hormel Institute will broaden its impact through innovative, world class research in its quest to improve human health.