Researcher Spotlight: Kari Hacker, MD, PHD

Through the 2018-2019 Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC) Research Grants and Awards program, Kari Hacker, MD, PhD, and Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University (NYU) Langone Health, received a $50,000 research grant funded by St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness (SLOCA).

In this Q&A, Dr. Hacker will share insight into her ongoing gynecologic (GYN) cancer research, how the FWC grant and generous funders impact her work, hopes for the future and more.

How would you describe your current research?

I am studying how a patient’s immune system interacts with her ovarian cancer and how chemotherapy affects this interaction, so that we can develop more effective immunotherapy for ovarian cancer.

How does receiving a grant from the FWC impact your work?

As a very junior surgeon-scientist who is interested in developing a translational research program—applying knowledge learned in the lab through the study of models of cancer to developing tools that address medical needs and ultimately design clinical trials based on this information—this grant will support my research while I generate information that will serve as the basis for a career development award.

What kind of treatment progress or discoveries do you envision happening in GYN cancer research?

I think we will continue to prolong the lives of ovarian cancer patients with new treatments that we are currently testing in clinical trials. My hope is that we will discover how to better harness a patient’s immune system in the fight against ovarian cancer.

What made you decide to go into the medical field and the GYN oncology subspecialty?

I was drawn to the diversity of the GYN oncology specialty. We are true surgeons, but also administer chemotherapy to our patients and follow them in surveillance once they have achieved remission. Through this continuity, we are able to guide them through their entire cancer treatment, from diagnosis to surgery and chemotherapy.

Lastly, could you share a brief personal bio to help readers get to know you?

I grew up the oldest daughter—of five—of a navy doctor and a nurse, in Wilmington, DE. I attended Dartmouth College for my undergraduate education and received a BA in biochemistry/molecular biology and sociology.

During college, I worked in a plant biology research lab and got the scientific research bug. While I loved research, I felt as if my future research would be more relevant to human health if I better understood the gaps in knowledge about specific human diseases. Following undergrad, I enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and graduated with my MD and PhD in 2011.

During my medical school clerkships, I was drawn to a career in women’s health. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of patient care and meaningful patient relationships I witnessed in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN). I completed my residency in OB/GYN at UNC Hospitals and then my fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of Michigan. I am now a first-year faculty member at NYU Langone Health.

As a new resident of New York City, I enjoy exploring the diverse neighborhoods, particularly eating at all of the delicious restaurants and browsing the amazing art in the city’s many museums. I enjoy spending time with my husband and 12-year-old Golden Retriever. I am an avid knitter and love to travel—internationally and nationally.

The FWC presents career development awards to applicants who wish to further develop their careers in gynecologic cancer biomedical, behavioral or clinical research. Learn more about the FWC Research Grants and Awards program.