José Cárdenas: The Anne Rita Monahan foundation, also known as ARM, was established by its namesake, and an ovarian cancer fighter whose goal is to make other women aware of the disease. The foundation announced three recipients of their inaugural foundation scholarship. Joining me tonight is one recipient, Pilar Ramos, an ovarian cancer researcher at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, TGEN. Pilar, thank you for joining us on “Horizonte”. Sadly, Anne Rita Monahan has passed away. She has formed a foundation though while she was alive. You met her a few times. Tell us about her.
Pilar Ramos: Anne started the foundation in 2007. And at that time, she came to visit our labatory, stopped by a couple of times and just wanted to see what we were doing, our work.
José Cárdenas: And the foundation's been in existence for four years, but this is the first year of these particular awards. You're one of the recipients. How long have you been working at TGEN?
Pilar Ramos: Seven years. I was an intern for two and a half years.
José Cárdenas: Your experience with Arizona began as a high school exchange student. Right?
Pilar Ramos: Yes. 13 years ago.
José Cárdenas: And since then, you've come back and you've been pursuing studies at the Grand Canyon. Is that right? Grand Canyon College?
Pilar Ramos: Glendale community college.
José Cárdenas: And, after that, you're now in the doctoral program at ASU.
Pilar Ramos: Correct.
José Cárdenas: Tell us about what you've been focused on at TGEN.
Pilar Ramos: I'm actually working on a type of ovarian cancer that's a rare type. It's called small cell carcinoma of the ovary, and it affects very young women at an average age of 23 years old.
José Cárdenas: What led you to focus on this particular area?
Pilar Ramos: There is very little known about this cancer. There is very few choices of treatment for these patients.
José Cárdenas: Now, the Monahan foundation itself is focused generally on ovarian cancer or specifically on the kind of cancer that she was suffering or that you're researching?
Pilar Ramos: Well, the scholarship was established for students working on any type of gynecological cancer.
José Cárdenas: Tell us a little more about this particular cancer that you're researching and its impact. How widespread is it?
Pilar Ramos: It's very rare, which makes it very difficult to work on, but we have been very successful at finding samples from patients which then allows us to do our research and try to find genetic aberrations in these tumors that we can hopefully use to develop new therapies for these patients.
José Cárdenas: I know it's gotten very high tech. There has been a lot of stuff in the newspapers about the equipment and technology. Can you give us simple explanation about how you identify the aberrations?
Pilar Ramos: We're currently using sequencing technologies to sequence the DNA and RNA of tumor samples from these patients.
José Cárdenas: As I understand, one of the benefits of an institute like TGEN and its ability to study rare cancers is because those cancers don't get much attention from the pharmaceutical companies because there aren't enough people affected to warrant the expenditure of money by them.
Pilar Ramos: We work on all types of cancer from the common cancers like breast cancer to a few of the rare ones such as small cell carcinoma of the ovary. So we’re lucky in that sense that we get to work on both ends.
José Cárdenas: The foundation has some events coming up. Specifically there's something coming up called Tea for Teal. So give us some information about that.When it is going to happen and what it is all about.
Pilar Ramos: Tea for Teal is an event that happens every year, and this year it's taking place at the Doubletree Resort by Hilton at Scottsdale, and this Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. It's a fundraising event, there and they will also present the scholarship awards.
José Cárdenas: Pilar, congratulations on your award and thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about your work at TGEN.
Pilar Ramos: Thank you very much.