Ronny Drapkin, PhD

Franklin Payne Associate Professor of Pathology in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania

2010 Cancer Research Grant Recipient

Dr. Ronny Drapkin is the Franklin Payne Associate Professor of Pathology in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a physician scientist who received his PhD in biochemistry & molecular biology in 1996 and his MD in 1998, both from Rutgers University in New Jersey. His postdoctoral training is in anatomic pathology (Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts) and cancer biology (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts). As Director
of the Ovarian Cancer Research Center and Basser Center for Breast Cancer, he leads a multidisciplinary team in translating important biological principles discovered in the laboratory into clinically useful diagnostic and therapeutic tools. His own research program is focused on understanding the pathogenesis and genetic alterations that underlie the development of ovarian cancer.

In 2010, Dr. Drapkin received an award from TMKF to define the role of the fallopian tube (FT)secretory epithelial cell in the pathogenesis of serous ovarian carcinoma. The project was highly successful and resulted in the development of a series of immortalized FT cell lines that he and his team used to identify novel oncogenes and model ovarian cancer at the molecular level. These novel cell cultures as well as animal models helped the team pave a path towards understanding the pathogenesis of this deadly disease. Historically, ovarian cancer was thought to originate in the cells on the surface of the ovary, but studies by the team and others groups showed that the majority of ovarian cancers actually emerge from the FT, which has been a paradigm shift in the field, and approaches to the prevention and early detection of ovarian cancer were dramatically altered due to these findings. Notably, the FT cell lines developed by
the team are now being used by investigators around the globe to study factors that drive ovarian cancer.

“The fallopian tube cells lines [that we developed] have really become work horses in the field. We have shared these cell lines with over hundreds of labs around the world. They have become a catalyst to helping us understand things that drive cancer development in the fallopian tube.”

Ronny Drapkin, PhD

The results of Dr. Drapkin’s TMKF project led to an impressive number (9) of peer-reviewed papers as well as additional funding and numerous collaborations over the years. He is a highly respected authority in the field whose findings are reported regularly, nationally and internationally, through media outlets and whose achievements have been recognized through multiple honors and awards. These include the 2011 Helene Harris Memorial Trust Traveling Fellowship (an exclusive group of thought leaders in ovarian cancer that meet every 4 years), an Elected Member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (2016), and the Rosalind Franklin Prize for Excellence in Ovarian Cancer.

“I started my own lab in mid-2007 and TMKF award was essential for my lab because it came before NIH funding and helped us develop the tools that were a catalyst for all our subsequent work.”

Ronny Drapkin, PhD