Sanaz Memarzadeh, MD, PhD

Sanaz Memarzadeh, M.D., Ph.D. 

Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology; Biological Chemistry; Director, G.O. Discovery Lab

Bio

Sanaz Memarzadeh, M.D., Ph.D., is a cancer surgeon who treats women with gynecological cancers. As director of the Gynecologic Oncology (G.O.) Discovery Laboratory, Memarzadeh leads a team that seeks to uncover the causes of ovarian and endometrial cancers, discover the nature and characteristics of normal cells that may be acting as precursors for cancer and develop better treatments to overcome therapy resistance commonly seen in both cancer types.

Up to 85 percent of women who undergo standard treatment (surgery and chemotherapy) for high-grade serous ovarian cancer—the most common subtype of ovarian cancer—experience recurrence of disease. This cancer is so aggressive, in part, due to mutations in a protein called p53. When p53 is working correctly, it prevents damaged cells from reproducing by stopping their growth until the damage is repaired. If the damage is irreversible, p53 can promote cell death. However, when p53 is mutated, damaged cancer cells can continue to reproduce. This may be one way that cancer cells can evade standard chemotherapy. In collaboration with other investigators at UCLA, Memarzadeh’s group tested the efficacy of a novel peptide, which is a chain of amino acids, called ReACp53. This peptide was specifically designed to interact with mutated p53 and reactivate its function. In pre-clinical testing, ReACp53 led to significant reductions in the size of ovarian cancer tumors studied in the lab. Memarzadeh and her collaborators are now evaluating if the addition of ReACp53 to standard treatments can prevent recurrence of ovarian cancer. They are also looking to identify biomarkers that can be used to predict which patients will benefit most from this approach. Because p53 is mutated in about half of all cancers, this therapeutic strategy may be applicable to many cancer types. Memarzadeh is working to test these treatments in a phase I clinical trial.

Memarzadeh and her lab also focus on endometrial cancer, which begins in the lining of the uterus and is currently the most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S. The female hormone progesterone has been used to treat endometrial cancers for decades, but has not reached widespread clinical use because it only benefits some patients. Memarzadeh aims to develop methods to predict how patients with endometrial cancers will respond to hormone therapy. Through this work, she and her lab discovered  that the cells that surround and support tumor cells, called stromal cells, play a critical role in mediating the effects of progesterone therapy in endometrial cancer. Memarzadeh and her team seek to better understand the interplay between the tumor cells and the stromal cells in the endometrium with the goal of developing ways to identify if a patient may be a good candidate for hormonal therapy. They are also testing potential drugs that may reverse progesterone resistance and make tumors susceptible to this therapy.

Memarzadeh earned a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a doctorate in molecular biology from UCLA. She completed her residency and fellowship in obstetrics and gynecology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Publications

Honors & Affiliations

Honors

  • Top Doctors, Los Angeles Magazine, 2018
  • Recognition on Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day, Los Angeles City Council, 2017
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2014

Affiliations

  • Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Society for Gynecologic Oncology
  • UCLA Molecular Biology Institute
  • Medical advisory board, Phase One Foundation
  • Affiliate oncologist, The Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired by Robin Babbini

Funding

Memarzadeh’s laboratory is funded by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired by Robin Babbini, the Leah L. and Marcia L. Millen Family Fund, the Anderson Family Foundation and the Booth Foundation.

Videos

Finding better treatment options for gynecologic cancers
Dr. Memarzadeh's research goal is to find better treatment options for gynecologic cancers and diseases. In this video, she discusses her recent research involving ovarian cancer stem cells and how she hopes to take her discoveries from the lab to patients through a clinical trial.
Ovarian Cancer: What you need to know
What are the signs of ovarian cancer?
Ovarian Cancer: Standard of Care and Beyond
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day
Research Minute with Dr. Sanaz Memarzadeh
OncLive: Dr. Memarzadeh on Reactivation of p53 in Cancer