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2012 Liz Tilberis Grant Recipient – Karen Cowden Dahl

Karen Cowden Dahl, PhD
Indiana University
Investigation of ARID3B Splicing as a Novel TherapeuticTarget for Ovarian Cancer

Project Summary

Dr. Dahl’s lab is interested in understanding the genes that are involved in ovarian cancer progression. They are investigating how changes in gene expression in cells lead to ovarian cancer, and have identified a new player in ovarian cancer tumor progression, the ARID3B gene. She has determined that there are high levels of ARID3B in ovarian tumors. Interestingly, the ARID3B gene makes two different proteins (called isoforms). One of the isoforms (ARID3B long form) causes tumor cells to die. She believes that second isoform (ARID3B short form) protects cells from chemotherapy induced cell death. The goal of this study is to determine if the second isoform (ARID3B short form) increases tumor progression. Dr. Dahl will evaluate how ARID3B is regulated, show if ARID3B promotes cancer, and determine if ARID3B might be a novel target for therapy.


Dr. Karen Cowden Dahl began her research career as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholar at Texas Tech University in 1997. While simultaneously working on her BS in Cell and Molecular Biology at Texas Tech, Dr. Cowden Dahl began investigating how environmental factors impact cancer, under the direction of Dr. Barbara Pence. Upon graduating in 1999, Dr. Cowden Dahl began graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. In Dr. Celeste Simon’s lab, Dr. Cowden Dahl investigated the role of oxygen sensing and adhesion in development and cancer and received her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology (emphasis in Cell growth and cancer) in 1999. It was as a postdoc that Dr. Cowden Dahl became especially interested in ovarian cancer progression and metastasis in the lab of Dr. Laurie Hudson at University of New Mexico. Dr. Cowden Dahl then joined the faculty at Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend in August of 2010. The Cowden Dahl lab focuses on understanding how abnormal gene regulation and abnormal splicing contributes to ovarian cancer metastasis and chemoresistance. The lab is particularly interested in determining if a new gene called ARID3B is directly involved in ovarian cancer progression and chemoresistance. Dr. Cowden Dahl demonstrated that ARID3B is overexpressed in ovarian cancer. The lab is now elucidating the function of this gene in cancer and determining if this gene is a good candidate for targeted therapy or a good prognostic/diagnostic marker. Dr. Cowden Dahl has received four minority scholar travel awards from the American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. Cowden Dahl’s past and current ovarian cancer research projects have been supported by the American Cancer Society (postdoc fellowship, and Institutional Research Grant), NIH/NCI (F32 and K99/R00), and Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.