Awarded Gifts and Grants


TOP: Buck Dodson and Dr. Stephanie PangasBOTTOM: The Pangas Laboratories Team

Baylor College of Medicine Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

The Susan Poorman Blackie Ovarian Cancer Foundation launched our promising initiative to support the academic and research training of graduate students interested in ovarian cancer research through a gift of $30,000 to the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Immunology.  Under the direction of Dr. Stephanie Pangas, Director of Pangas Laboratories at Baylor, this gift provides funding for one year of training for a graduate-level ovarian cancer researcher. We believe encouraging young researchers is critical to the development of innovate, promising solutions to this disease.

Learn more about Dr. Pangas and how this gift accelerates ovarian cancer research in the following interview with Buck Dodson, our executive director:

BD: Dr. Pangas, please tell our supporters about yourself, how you became interested in studying ovarian cancer, and about the research you all are doing at Baylor?

“I first became interested in female reproductive biology as a graduate student at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.  I moved to Baylor College of Medicine to continue my research because of their international reputation in generating genetic models of human disease, which is a very powerful method of dissecting how genes work.  My interest in ovarian cancer originally started as a basic science question, but became more personal when my best friend developed and eventually succumbed to the disease.  Since then, my laboratory has incorporated many more clinically-oriented projects that focus on developing novel diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer and new ways to inhibit its growth and development.”

BD: How are graduate students utilized in your lab and why is philanthropic funding so critical in supporting graduate student research?

“Each graduate student has his or her own specific research project tailored to his or her career goal.  In our laboratory, a student can choose a thesis topic from a broad research scope that encompasses female reproductive biology and ovarian cancer research. During the course of their studies, it is important for graduate students to learn to think like scientists and eventually become independent and confident researchers who can follow their own research ideas to completion.  Having a dedicated ovarian cancer funding source for young researchers reinforces that ovarian cancer research is valued and provides an incentive for pursuing a research career in this area.”

BD: What impact will the Susan Poorman Blackie Ovarian Cancer Foundation’s gift have on your lab’s research outcomes?

“Funding from the Susan Poorman Blackie Ovarian Cancer Foundation allows us to recruit young scientists to the laboratory specifically for ovarian cancer research.  Without dedicated funding, a graduate student may decide to pursue another line of research in an area that is traditionally better funded than ovarian cancer.  In the short term, funding from the Susan Poorman Blackie Ovarian Cancer Foundation increases our laboratory’s overall research potential, but in the long run, will eventually increase the pool of young talented scientists who go on to pursue ovarian cancer research in their own laboratories. “

BD: What are some of the barriers as well as opportunities in advancing positive outcomes in ovarian cancer research?

“I think a significant barrier to advancing ovarian cancer research is shared with scientific research in general.  The past decade has seen tough economic times, and funding from federal agencies, which is the primary supporter of academic research in this country, is getting harder to obtain.  The fallout of this is that many of our trainees, whether graduate students or postdoctoral fellows, are choosing non-research careers or leaving science altogether.  If we want to advance human health through innovative research, it is imperative that we find ways to support them.  On the other hand, it’s a very exciting time to be a scientist! There have been a number of new technological advances, for instance in genetic engineering and in nanotechnology, that have the potential to accelerate our progress towards more effective treatments or even cures to cancers, such as ovarian cancer, that have been so difficult to treat.”

Learn more about Nisha Gokul, Baylor graduate student researcher, in the following interview:

BD: Ms. Gokul, please tell our supporters about yourself, your academic background and why you chose to pursue graduate research studies at Baylor College of Medicine.

“I grew up in Stephenville, TX, and attended Austin College in Sherman, TX where I earned a Bachelors degree in Biology and participated in undergraduate research. After college I worked in research labs at the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Cleveland Clinic. I chose to apply to the Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine to pursue a PhD degree not only because of the school’s reputation, but because the faculty and lab members seemed to genuinely want to mentor their students and they continually push the boundaries of human knowledge to better understand diseases.”

BD: What interests you about ovarian cancer research, specifically? What are your short and long term goals in ovarian cancer research?

“Because the majority of ovarian cancer diagnoses occur when the cancer has already spread, I’m interested in understanding the mechanism behind the early steps of metastasis in hopes of being able to discover better treatment options. In addition, early detection of ovarian cancer is still poor so I would also like to explore new and effective ways to detect ovarian cancer when it is still in the early stages.”

BD: What aspects of the ovarian cancer research program at Baylor’s Pangas Laboratories are you currently working on and what projects will you be working on throughout the academic year?

“I am involved in exploring novel, non-invasive ways to detect early stage ovarian cancer. I am also investigating the effects of chemotherapeutic agents on ovarian granulosa cell tumors since this type of cancer does not yet have effective treatment options.  Lastly, I hope to also be able to develop animal models to study normal ovary development in order to uncover causes of infertility.”

BD: At the end of this year’s research training experience, what will success look like for you?

“For me, success will be producing something that has real-life value. I hope I will have uncovered something no one has known before to answer questions that can truly help us treat and prevent ovarian cancer.”

Read more about Dr. Pangas’ ovarian cancer research at the Baylor College of Medicine here.

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We provide grants to inspiring and innovative researchers committed to detecting and treating ovarian cancer in promising ways.

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