Kenneth Nephew, Ph.D.

Ken Nephew, PhD

Professor
Departments of Cellular and Integrative Physiology; Obstetrics and Gynecology; Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
Indiana University School of Medicine & Simon Cancer Center

Dr. Kenneth P. Nephew joined Indiana University (IU) in 1996. He is a Professor of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, and of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the School of Medicine. He is also the Assistant Director for Basic Science Research at IU Simon Cancer Center, and Program Leader of the Walther Cancer Institute, which is affiliated with IU. He is the Co-Director of the IU-Ohio State University (OSU) Center for Cancer Systems Biology. He is the Director of Graduate Education for the Medical Sciences at IU and is highly active in training and educating graduate and medical students in ovarian cancer research. He is the Principal Investigator and co-investigator on numerous grants from National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI), serves on various editorial boards, scientific advisory committees, and review panels for both the NIH and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Dr. Nephew’s ovarian cancer research focuses on disease recurrence, and its resistance to chemotherapy. Aberrant DNA methylation is a an “epigenetic hallmark” of most cancers, and the association between increased CpG island methylation and epigenetic inactivation of genes with known roles in tumor development and progression has been demonstrated for essentially all human cancers, including ovarian. In addition, genes known to be involved in drug sensitivity can become methylated in ovarian tumors. His work and the work of others suggest that DNA methylation is reversible in ovarian cancer cells. Thus, he is pursuing the clinical development of epigenetic therapies for this disease. In the laboratory, he is combining pharmacological reversal of aberrant methylation with standard chemotherapy. He recently moved this approach into the clinic as a phase I/II trial with the goal to improve the outcome for recurrent ovarian cancer patients. In addition, his laboratory has identified a discrete subpopulation of ovarian cancer stem cells that are specifically responsible for ovarian cancer initiation, maintenance and growth. He has shown that ovarian cancer stem cells are chemotherapy resistant and likely responsible for secondary recurrences. His research to target these causative cells in ovarian tumors may enhance the potential to eradicate ovarian cancer.

Dr. Nephew received his undergraduate and graduate (PhD) degrees in Reproductive Physiology from the OSU. He subsequently obtained postdoctoral training in cancer biology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and then the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where he was supported by ACS and NIH postdoctoral fellowships.