In This Section      

Ovarian Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE)

Johns Hopkins Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded the prestigious Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant by the National Cancer Institute for furthering translational ovarian cancer research. This SPORE will offer new opportunities for ovarian cancer patients who are seeking innovative clinical trials, or for women who have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer for early detection of ovarian cancer.

Doctor consulting with patient in medical office

Interested in participating in a clinical trial?

To learn more about our gynecologic cancer clinical trials, email us at or call us at 410-955-8240.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers in women in the United States. Often detected in its advanced stage, it is difficult to treat and a major cause of cancer morbidity and mortality. The primary goal of our joint Johns Hopkins - University of Pennsylvania SPORE — one of only four grants for ovarian cancer awarded in the nation — is to translate our recent laboratory research discoveries into improvements in ovarian cancer detection and treatment.

Specifically, we will evaluate innovative approaches for early detection, through the development of more effective screening tools, and for treatment, investigating new therapies that will minimize chemotherapy resistance and reduce recurrence. Clinical trials will support this research, and we are currently accepting eligible applicants.

Our multidisciplinary team of experts, including clinical trialists, translational scientists, molecular biologists, pathologists, medical oncologists and biostatisticians, is committed to translating research into patient care — with the ultimate goal of reducing ovarian cancer incidence and mortality. 

This SPORE is led by Dr. Ie-Ming Shih, the Richard W. TeLinde Distinguished Professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

Research Program Structure

This translational program is composed of four hypothesis-driven research projects, three core resources, the Career Enhancement Program and the Developmental Research Program. Below we provide a synopsis of our program goals and structure. For more detailed information on our research program, please visit our research overview page.


Project 1: Applying PapGene test for early ovarian cancer detection

The objective of Project 1 is to evaluate the effectiveness of various methods to detect early and low-volume ovarian high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC), the most common and aggressive type of ovarian cancer. Specifically, we will evaluate sample collection methods including the PapGene test (collection of cervical fluid specimens taken during Pap smears), the circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) liquid biopsy blood test and endometrial cavity brushing. To read the full research abstract and leadership information for Project 1, please visit our Project 1 page

Project 2: Optimizing synthetic lethality in high-grade serous ovarian cancer

The goal of Project 2 is to investigate a more effective combined therapy to treat advanced ovarian HGSC. Specifically, Project 2 will continue to explore the combined use of ATR inhibitors and PARP inhibitors to target and eliminate cancerous ovarian HGSC tissue. To read the full research abstract and leadership information for Project 2, please visit our Project 2 page.

We are looking for participants for our clinical trial. Women age 18 or older with recurrent ovarian cancer are eligible. Find further information on how to participate in this clinical trial on our clinical trials page.

Project 3: Overcoming platinum resistance in ovarian cancer through BET inhibition

Project 3 will further examine our recent discovery of applying BET inhibitors for overcoming chemotherapy resistance as a tool to treat advanced ovarian cancer. To read the full research abstract and leadership information for Project 3, please visit our Project 3 page.

Project 4: Exploring the potential of SYK inhibitors to sensitize ovarian cancer to the anti-tumor effects of paclitaxel

Project 4 aims to determine whether restricting spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) activity sensitizes ovarian cancer cells to the effects of Paclitaxel, a chemotherapy drug, thus making SYK inhibitors a promising new agent for the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer. To read the full research abstract and leadership information for Project 4, please visit our Project 4 page.

This project also has a clinical trial component. Learn more on our clinical trials page.


These projects are supported by an administrative core, a biorepository/pathology core and a biostatistics core.

Career Enhancement and Developmental Programs

We have also established Career Enhancement and Developmental Research Programs to help fuel future SPORE advances.

The Career Enhancement Program provides funding and support to promising young investigators to help facilitate their early career development and build a firm foundation for their future leadership in the translational ovarian cancer research field. Secondarily, the program will also support established investigators who want to redirect their research efforts to translational ovarian cancer research.  

The Developmental Research Program provides funding for pilot studies with potential for development into large-scale translational research projects, collaborations and new methodologies that may be integrated into other existing projects. This program is a major focus of the SPORE because it encourages the flow of innovative ideas and new research efforts that may emerge within the context of SPORE research.  

The Research Team

Overall Principal Investigator

Photo of Dr. Ie-Ming Shih, M.D., Ph.D.

Shih, Ie-Ming, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Professor of Oncology
Professor of Pathology
Richard W. TeLinde Distinguished Professor, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Director of TeLinde Gynecologic Pathology Laboratory
Co-Director, Womens' Malignancy Program, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

Co-Principal Investigator

drapkin bio photo

Drapkin, Ronny M.D., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Franklin Payne Associate Professor of Pathology in Obstetrics and Gynecology

Clinical Directors

Photo of Dr. Deborah K Armstrong, M.D.

Armstrong, Deborah K, M.D.

Professor of Oncology
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Director, Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service
burger bio photo

Burger, Robert, M.D., University of Pennsylvania

Director of Clinical Research and Fellowship Program in Gynecologic Oncology
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Johns Hopkins Research Team

Photo of Dr. Leslie Cope, Ph.D.

Cope, Leslie, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Oncology
Photo of Dr. Stephanie Louise Gaillard, M.D., Ph.D.

Gaillard, Stephanie Louise, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Oncology
Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Photo of Dr. Amanda Nickles Fader, M.D.

Nickles Fader, Amanda, M.D.

Associate Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Associate Professor of Oncology
Director of the Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service
Director, F.J. Montz Fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology
Photo of Dr. Nickolas Papadopoulos, Ph.D.

Papadopoulos, Nickolas, Ph.D.

Professor of Oncology
Professor of Pathology
Photo of Dr. Gary L. Rosner, Sc.D.

Rosner, Gary L., Sc.D.

Professor of Oncology
Director of the Quantitative Sciences Program and Biostatistics/Bioinformatics Division
Photo of Dr. Victor E. Velculescu, M.D., Ph.D.

Velculescu, Victor E., M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Oncology
Professor of Medicine
Professor of Pathology
Co-Director of Cancer Biology
Associate Cancer Center Director for Precision Medicine
Photo of Dr. Bert Vogelstein, M.D.

Vogelstein, Bert, M.D.

Professor of Oncology
Joint Appointment in Molecular Biology and Genetics
Professor of Pathology
Photo of Dr. Tian-Li Wang, Ph.D.

Wang, Tian-Li, Ph.D.

Professor of Pathology
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Professor of Oncology
Director of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory of Female Reproductive Cancer
Photo of Dr. Stephanie Lorene Wethington, M.D., M.Sc.

Wethington, Stephanie Lorene, M.D., M.Sc.

Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics

University of Pennsylvania Research Team

eric brown bio photo

Brown, Eric J, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Associate Professor of Cancer Biology

payal shah bio photo

Shah, Payal, M.D., University of Pennsylvania

Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology

fiona simpkins bio photo

Simpkins, Fiona, M.D., University of Pennsylvania

Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

rugang zhang bio photo

Zhang, Rugang, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Deputy Director, The Wistar Institute Cancer Center
Professor & Co-Leader, Gene Expression & Regulation Program

Research collaborators

susanne kjaer bio photo

Kjaer, Susanne, M.D., Danish Cancer Society

Professor of Gynecological Cancer Epidemiology

We also have an internal and external advisory board. View our board here.