Project Highlights

The Women's Health Research Center funds multidisciplinary projects and studies across Mayo Clinic to advance research focused on the female body through all stages of life. Projects focus on illnesses, conditions and physiological responses that occur only in women, manifest differently in women compared with men, or are more prevalent in women compared with men.

Previous projects supported by the Women's Health Research Center have studied hormones in venous thromboembolism-related pregnancy, neurovascular control and blood pressure after menopause, sex differences in asthma, and differences in how older men and women respond to flu shots.

2021 Awardees:

Exogenous hormone use in women with intracranial meningiomas: Incidence, recurrence, and progression

Meningiomas arise from the cerebral meninges and are the most prevalent type of benign brain tumors. These typically have favorable outcomes for most patients; despite this, some higher grade, recurrent meningiomas located near critical structures of the brain can significantly affect a patient's quality of life. These lesions disproportionately affect women as they age past their childbearing years, which may be due to the progesterone and estrogen receptor positivity of these tumors.

There is weak to moderate evidence to suggest that hormones for these receptors, including those given in hormone replacement therapies (HRTs) and oral contraceptives, may contribute to the development and growth of meningiomas. Currently, there are no formal clinical care guidelines on the use of oral contraceptives and HRT in women with meningiomas. To close this gap, in this project, we seek to clarify the association between exogenous hormone use and the incidence, recurrence and progression of intracranial meningiomas in women.

Mesenchymal stem cell function and senescence in experimental and human diabetic kidney disease: Effects of sex

  • LaTonya J. Hickson, M.D.
  • Associate Professor of Medicine
  • Division Chair of Department of Nephrology and Hypertension
  • Director, Translational and Regenerative Research Laboratory
  • Funded by Women's Health Research Center
  • (3/2021-2/2022)

Regenerative, cell-based therapy using mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSC) is a promising novel therapeutic strategy for diabetic kidney disease (DKD). However, the loss of circulating estrogen associated with aging may impact regenerative function of MSC in menopausal women. This project will investigate the influence of estrogen on MSC functionality. Assessing the most favorable cell donor profiles could lead to successful large-scale clinical trials testing the therapeutic potential of MSC in DKD and other chronic diseases.

Prehabilitation in advanced ovarian cancer

  • Amanika Kumar, M.D.
  • Assistant Professor
  • Division of Gynecologic Oncology
  • Jointly funded by the Mayo Clinic Women's Health Research Center and Center for Women's Health
  • (3/2021-02/2022)

Ovarian cancer is commonly diagnosed at an advanced stage and requires surgery and chemotherapy. However, many patients are not able to tolerate treatment. Interventions designed to improve resilience against loss of function, psychological distress, complications and premature mortality are needed.

Our overall goal is to test whether a holistic prehabilitation program can be implemented alongside standard tumor-directed therapy in the ovarian cancer patients and will improve function and quality of life, and reduce morbidity and mortality. The project is a pilot clinical trial addressing prehabilitation in patients undergoing treatment for advanced ovarian cancer. There are exercise, nutrition and stress-reduction components to the prehabilitation intervention.

The impact of cancer immunotherapy on ovarian function in young women with cancer

  • Yiyi Yan, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor of Medicine and Oncology
  • Consultant of Medical Oncology
  • Jointly funded by the Mayo Clinic Women's Health Research Center and Mayo Clinic's Center for Biomedical Discovery
  • (4/2021-3/2022)

Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment and made long-term survival possible for many young women with cancer. However, its ovarian and fertility toxicities and long-term impact on future pregnancy are unknown.

This multidisciplinary study will elucidate the impact and mechanisms of cancer immunotherapy on ovarian reserve and female fertility, ultimately guiding personalized cost-effective fertility management for young women in the era of immunotherapy.