Dr. Karen Lu
As the incidence of endometrial cancer -- and the death rate associated with it -- increases, Karen Lu, M.D. is at the forefront of deciphering its mysteries.
“We’re expanding our efforts and targeting our research to pinpoint exactly which women are at the most risk for endometrial cancer,” says Lu, professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Gynecologic Oncology. “This year, more than 40,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with endometrial cancer, making it the most common cancer of the female reproductive system.”
Lu’s research is supported through a $10 million Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant, on which she is principal investigator. The five-year SPORE program, the first in the country for endometrial cancer, will examine new treatments, risk and biology of the disease as well as the relationship between obesity and endometrial cancer.
“This is a crucial time in the investigation of endometrial cancer, and here at MD Anderson we have the tools to make real advances against the disease,” Lu says. “We are gaining knowledge, but we need to do more to help women prevent this cancer and catch it early.”
Endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer, occurs predominately in women over 40. The major risk factor is obesity, which is associated with at least half of all cases. Lu has completed pioneering research in the relationship of insulin resistance and endometrial cancer.
“We must redouble our efforts to motivate obese women to lose weight and help all women modify known risk factors for endometrial cancer,” she says. “With obesity now an epidemic, we have our work cut out for us.”
Lu also is an expert on endometrial cancer and Lynch syndrome, and she serves as co-medical director of Clinical Cancer Genetics. Women with Lynch syndrome inherit a high risk of developing endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer, and Lu is studying ways them prevent these cancers.