Research Interests

Project 1

Development of Mechanism-Based Ovarian Reserve Protecting Adjuvant Therapies Against Gonadotoxic Therapeutic Agents


Project 2

Investigation of Etiology of Granulosa Cell Tumors


Project 3

Understanding Cancer Cachexia as the Transcriptional and Metabolic Reprogramming by Activin

 

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The word ‘Oncofertility’ combines Oncology and Fertility and was coined in 2006 by Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff at Northwestern University. The goal for Oncofertility is to provide and expand the possible options for the reproductive future of young cancer patients. When young cancer patients including children, teens, and young adults receive the devastating news that they have cancer, they face fear in many ways. They are fighting against a brutal disease that changes their childhood playtime with friends, college plans, early careers, etc. Life-saving treatments such as cancer therapy unintentionally affects non-cancerous cells in their bodies. One of the most serious side effects is loss of eggs (oocytes) and sperm, threatening their future fertility. In addition to fertility concerns, loss of endocrine support in females can cause a cascade of medical and quality-of-life problems beginning in young cancer patients. Damage to reproductive organs like ovary can lead to genetically damaged oocytes, early menopause, and premature ovarian insufficiency (POI). The symptoms of POI include sterility, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, and dementia and generally compromise the quality of life for young cancer patients. However, the current management options of POI are inadequate. Successful Oncofertility requires meaningful communication and prompt decision among patients, family, reproductive endocrinologists, oncologists, patient navigators, and other health care providers. Patients and family should be provided with enough information regarding the drugs that pose a threat to fertility and all possible options to disruptions to fertility. Currently, procedure for the preservation of oocytes, embryos, and ovarian tissues are available options for young adults. However, those options are not available for young prepubertal cancer patients. Young girls receiving cancer therapies are faced with delayed menarche, the possible necessity of hormone replacement therapy for their life time, and mental and emotional stress of not being able to have children. Thus, developing an effective intervention to prevent the loss of ovarian function is an unmet need in the field. In Kim Laboratory, we focus on understanding the mechanisms by which specific chemotherapeutic agents deplete oocytes. We are currently investigating ways to lessen the effects of any disease or treatment on ovarian function and develop physician-guided tools that will facilitate communication and translation between basic research and clinical practice. Return to top



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When a girl is born, both ovaries inside of her body contain about one million eggs. Eggs are surrounded by nursing cells, called granulosa cells. Granulosa cells and the egg make a unit inside of the ovary called a follicle. When the communication between the egg and granulosa cells is fine, the follicle grows normally with the menstrual cycle. However, when genetic changes occur inside of cells, the follicle cannot grow well, resulting in the loss of follicles or overgrowth of tissue (tumor). In Kim Laboratory, the main topic is understanding how tumors arise from granulosa cells in the ovary. Although reports show evidence of gene mutations in granulosa cells, the genetic reprogramming required for initiation of a tumor is still not known. Progress in understanding granulosa cell tumor formation is hampered by the lack of experimental models that mimic formation of granulosa cell tumors. We use a unique mouse model to study the formation of granulosa cell tumors. We use state-of-the-art approaches to identify differentially regulated genes throughout the stages of granulosa tumor formation. Return to top



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Cachexia has been described as ‘the last illness’ that humans can face (Cox C. 2015). It is a word from the Greek, kakos and hexis, meaning bad condition. The main characteristics of cachexia are represented by loss of skeletal muscle and body fat, causing asthenia, anorexia, anemia, and fatigue. The patients’ symptoms are complicated and their malnutrition condition cannot be reversed simply by increasing nutrition uptake although some appetite stimulants or specific diets, like ketogenic diet, may help in certain patients. It occurs in patients suffering from chronic infection, kidney disease, heart failure, and cancers. Approximately 50% of all cancer patients have cachexia symptoms, 80% of patients with advanced cancers develop cachexia, and 20% of cancer patients die of cachexia. Cancer patients with pancreatic cancer, non-small lung cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, melanoma, or thoracic and head and neck malignancies are prone to develop cachectic symptoms. Although those cancers above may occur from different origins, their cachectic symptoms at the last stage of disease are similar among cancer patients, suggesting that the causal factors and the mechanisms behind those to induce cachectic symptoms are related. Several factors have been proposed to induce cachectic symptoms in human patients: IL-6, myostatin, parathyroid hormone (PTH)/parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP), C-reactive protein, and TNF-alpha. Thus, common metabolic pathways disrupted by these key mediators have been proposed as ideal targets for reducing symptoms. Despite a body of evidence demonstrating overexpression of various factors in cachexia, there have been no studies on the regulation of the expression of those cachectic factors, especially activin A. Thus, we study the mechanisms regulating the overproduction of activin A and the transcriptional and metabolic reprogramming of adipose tissue by activin A. This study will answer the question of how specific cancer cells acquire changes of overproduction of activin A that ultimately result in the uncontrolled growth and the cachectic condition and how adipose tissues respond to activin A. Return to top