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Ursula A. Matulonis, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Clinical Director and Disease Center Leader,
Medical Gynecologic Oncology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts

Current Research

  • Studies are focused on improving response to PARP inhibitor therapy in breast and ovarian cancer.

  • Genomic analysis of ovarian tumors is being conducted to identify biomarkers of response to PARP inhibitors.

  • These studies may benefit patients with triple negative breast cancer, as TNBC tumors share common biology with ovarian cancer.

Drs. Matulonis, Berkowitz and Konstantinopoulos have joined forces to study the common genetic features of breast and ovarian cancers. The Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's team is credited with showing that the accumulation of genetic mutations in breast and ovarian cancers influences how the tumors respond to treatment.

Using information from collaborative clinical trials, publicly available data from researchers from around the world and emerging technologies, they are leveraging discoveries made in one disease to benefit the other. They then use this information to better understand drug resistance and to identify new biomarkers and therapeutic targets.

PARP inhibitors are a class of drugs that interfere with repair of damaged DNA and have been effective in ovarian cancers that harbor BRCA mutations. Resistance to PARP inhibitors is a very important clinical problem, however.

The group recently identified at least four unique genomic alterations that are associated with sensitivity or resistance to PARP inhibitors, including down-regulation of a key molecule called RAD51, which increases sensitivity of ovarian cancer to PARP inhibitors, and a phenomenon called PTEN homozygous deletion, which is common in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and promotes drug resistance.

Over the next year, they will generate PARP inhibitor-resistant tumors in their experimental models and attempt to find a way to restore their sensitivity. Because PARP inhibitors are being tested in TNBC, they believe their findings in ovarian cancer may be valuable for predicting response to PARP inhibitors in TNBC as well. This work will continue to shed light on resistance mechanisms and provide biomarkers of treatment response.

 

Bio

Ursula A. Matulonis, MD is Medical Director and Disease Center Leader of the Medical Gynecologic Oncology Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on developing new targeted therapies for gynecologic malignancies, with an interest in the genetic changes in ovarian cancer that can lead to rationale drug development and selection. 

Dr. Matulonis is Principal Investigator (PI) of several clinical trials and translational studies for ovarian cancer. She is the PI of a Department of Defense grant on ovarian cancer entitled "Prediction of Response to Therapy and Clinical Outcome Through a Pilot Study of Complete Genetic Assessment of Ovarian Cancer" and a Co-PI on the project "Genetic similarities between serous ovarian cancer and triple negative breast cancer" funded by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Dr. Matulonis is the overall PI on a Program Project Grant funded by the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) entitled "Rational combinations of novel biologic agents for ovarian cancer therapy" that was awarded in January 2014. Dr. Matulonis serves on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Recommendation and Guideline committee for ovarian cancer and for the treatment of anemia, the Gynecologic Oncology Group ovarian committee, the National Cancer Institute Ovarian Cancer Task Force, the Scientific Advisory Board of OCRF, the editorial board of Gynecologic Oncology, and is Medical Director and Board Member for the non-profit organization Ovations for the Cure. She is a recipient of the Dennis Thompson Compassionate Care Scholar award, the Lee M. Nadler "Extra Mile" Award, the Zakim Award for patient advocacy, and the Susan Love Award from the Fenway Health Clinic. 

After receiving her MD from Albany Medical College, she completed an internship and residency at the University of Pittsburgh, followed by a medical oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber.

BCRF Investigator Since

2008

Donor Recognition

The Play for P.I.N.K. Award

Area(s) of Focus

Co-Investigators