Ernst Lengyel, M.D., Ph.D.


  • Professor, Department of Obsterics and Gynecology - Section of Gynecologic Oncology, Committee on Cancer Biology


Ph.D. (Habil.), Technische University Munich, 1999

M.D. Ludwig-Maximilians University, 1992


The University of Chicago
GCIS W106 (MC 2050)
929 East 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Phone:  (773) 702-6722

Webpage (Dept. of OBGYN)


Understand the biology of ovarian cancer invasion and metastasis and identify novel targets for treatment

The laboratory is dedicated to improving our understanding of the biology of ovarian cancer metastasis and to exploring the use of novel drugs for its treatment. Ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States, and has the highest mortality rate of all gynecologic malignancies. The high fatality of the disease is because it is often diagnosed at a late stage, when tumor cells have disseminated within the peritoneal cavity.

After the malignant transformation of ovarian surface epithelial cells and the growth of the tumor within the ovary, tumor cells detach from the ovary and attach to the peritoneum or omentum, but rarely leave the peritoneal cavity Despite aggressive treatment more than two thirds of all patients succumb to their disease within 5 years.
See our recent review article on ovarian cancer in the American Journal of Pathology (Sept. 2010).. See "Rethinking ovarian cancer: recommendations for improving outcomes" Nature Reviews Cancer (Oct., 2011), proposals by an international group of researchers that included Dr. Lengyel.

Main projects in the laboratory:

  1. Understand the early steps of ovarian cancer metastasis to the peritoneum and omentum and characterize tumor – stroma interactions in ovarian cancer metastasis
  2. Characterize new treatment targets and test them in pre-clinical models. Recent work from our lab has shown that c-Met might be a good treatment target for breast and ovarian cancer
  3. Investigate new agents to delay or inhibit the development of ovarian cancer
  4. Study the role of miRNA’s in ovarian cancer metastasis

In our research we use primary and cultured ovarian cancer cell lines and mouse models of ovarian cancer (xenograft, genetic). We have also assembled 10 tissue micro arrays (200 patients) with tissue from primary and metastatic ovarian cancers. These tissue samples are linked to an ACCESS database containing clinico-pathologic information on all ovarian cancer patients operated on at the University of Chicago since 1992. Data are collected prospectively.

We cooperate very closely with the Department of Pathology at the University of Chicago, particularly with three Gynecologic Pathologists, Drs.GwinMontag, and Krausz. Another important collaborator is Dr. Marcus Peter in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Northwestern University, and Dr. Joe Piccirilli from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 

I am an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and a Gynecologic Oncologist, with a special clinical focus on the surgical treatment of ovarian cancer and a scientific focus on the biology of ovarian cancer. Click here for an interview in which I discuss my ovarian cancer research:

Ultimately, we hope to realize the major goal of the laboratory; to translate our findings and understanding of ovarian cancer tumor biology into novel therapeutic treatments that will improve the survival of those with this devastating disease. Our research is funded by the NIH, the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, and the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.

Research Papers in PubMed