Fred Hutch Public Health Sciences Division postdoc receives Rivkin Award

Jessica Bertout's $60,000 award will fund research into technologies that could permit noninvasive early detection of ovarian cancer and extend patient survival

The Hutchinson Center's Dr. Jessica Bertout, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Bielas Lab, is the recipient of a 2013 Gilman Family Scientific Scholar Award from the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.

Dr. Jessica Bertout
Dr. Jessica Bertout, Public Health Sciences Division

Bertout won the $60,000 grant for her proposal "High-Resolution Detection of Somatic Ovarian Cancer Mutations in Bodily Fluids," which addresses the creation of technology for earlier detection of ovarian cancer. Bertout will conduct her research under the mentorship of Drs. Jason Bielas and Charles Drescher in the Public Health Sciences Division.

"I am very grateful to the Rivkin Center and the Gilman Family, and am truly excited about this opportunity," Bertout said. "Without their support, this study would not be possible. The award will enable me to generate sufficient preliminary data to apply for government funding with the goal of ultimately developing a test for the early detection of ovarian cancer. I am dedicated to making a significant difference in the lives of ovarian cancer patients and I believe this to be a critical step."

Methods for detecting tumor cells and DNA circulating in bodily fluids are currently under intense investigation for early detection and cancer diagnostics; however, no existing technology meets the high sensitivity and specificity requirements needed to attain these goals.

Bertout proposes to use new barcoding technologies she developed in the Bielas Lab to build upon Next Generation Sequencing technologies and enable exquisitely sensitive cancer-specific mutation detection.

"We expect our new technologies will overcome the current challenges, permit the noninvasive early detection and monitoring of ovarian cancer, and extend patient survival," Bertout said.

"Excitingly, researchers could also adapt these technologies, with minimal modifications, to the highly sensitive detection and monitoring of other cancers. The technologies could also help answer biological questions in other areas important to the Bielas Lab, such as mitochondrial biology and aging."

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