Wood To Receive The 2015 Liz Tilberis Early Career Award

February 23, 2015
By: Karen E. Butler, Director of Communications, DCI

Members of the Wood Lab, from back to front: Graduate students Peter Winter and Lorin Crawford; (middle row) post doctoral associate Katie Singleton, PhD; and Kevin Lin; (front) Merve Cakir, MS, ; and Kris Wood, PhD.Kris Wood, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, has been named to receive the 2015 Liz Tilberis Early Career Award from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF). Launched in 2000 to honor OCRF’s late president Liz Tilberis, the award is given to junior faculty demonstrating a strong commitment to an investigative career in ovarian cancer research.

Wood’s lab recently developed a pair of companion methods referred to as Oncopathway Profiling.

“These methods enable us, for the first time, to rapidly and systematically identify the specific processes cancer cells use to overcome the toxicity of chemotherapies,” said Wood. “Our goal is to design new therapies that reverse these processes, synergistically enhancing chemotherapeutic efficacy.”

According to Wood, his lab has already demonstrated the power of Oncopathway Profiling in studies involving a range of diverse cancer types and drugs – studies leading to both new insights into the biological mechanisms governing chemotherapeutic response as well as the design of improved combination therapies with enhanced selectivity and potency.

“This grant will help us use these functional genomic approaches to identify combination therapies that improve the responses of ovarian cancers to anticancer drugs, including conventional cytotoxic chemotherapeutics and newer targeted therapies,” said Wood. “To do this, we will first identify the key biological mechanisms that govern the responses of ovarian cancers to these drugs, then use this knowledge to design combinations of drugs that function by blocking these mechanisms. Finally, the leading combinations emerging from our discovery studies will be credentialed in preclinical cellular and animal models of ovarian cancer with the ultimate long-term goal of transitioning these findings to human clinical studies.”

Wood received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Kentucky, where he received the outstanding sophomore, junior and senior awards in chemical engineering, the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Senior Award and the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in Science and Mathematics. He received his doctorate degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Wood has also been recognized by the V foundation, Steward Trust, Forbeck, Whitehead and NIH BIRCWH scholar awards as well as research awards from the Lloyd Trust and Golfers Against Cancer. The three-year grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund will provide Wood with $150,000 each year.

“We are very grateful and honored that the OCRF has chosen to support our work,” Wood said. “Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease for many patients, and we are excited to apply the approaches we have developed to design new therapeutic strategies that we hope will ultimately improve both our understanding of ovarian cancer biology and outcomes in patients with the disease.”

To learn more about the Liz Tilberis Early Career Award, visit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. For more information on Oncopathway Profiling and Wood’s lab, visit Wood Lab, Duke University.

Circle photo: Kris Wood, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, looks at cancer cells in culture that are being screened using Oncopathway Profiling to identify drug targets that sensitize them to a targeted therapy.