Nicole Cundiff, board CEO and co-founder of Colleen’s Dream Foundation.

Colleen’s Dream funds TGen ovarian cancer clinical trial

Colleen’s Dream Foundation, a Scottsdale-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting ovarian cancer research, recently awarded Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) $450,000 to fund a clinical trial for a newly developed ovarian cancer drug treatment.

Colleen’s Dream celebrated its fifth annual fundraising event, the Evening of Dreams Gala in late February. This year’s gala was record-breaking for the foundation, with more than 650 attendees and $200,000 raised from the live auction and paddle raise portion of the evening alone. Combined with prior Colleen’s Dream donations to TGen, this support will fully enable the clinical trial.

“The research being done at TGen is some of the most exciting we’ve ever seen,” said Nicole Cundiff, CEO of Colleen’s Dream Foundation. “Whether the drug they developed leads to another amazing discovery, or it becomes a first line ovarian cancer treatment, we truly believe what they’re doing will move the needle and we couldn’t be more proud to support an institute located here in Arizona.” 

TGen, based in Phoenix, alongside an international team of collaborators, discovered a mutation in a gene known as SMARCA4, which drives a specific type of extremely aggressive ovarian cancer known as Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary, Hypercalcemic Type (SCCOHT).

SMARCA4 is known as an “epigenetic” gene that broadly controls how other genes are regulated in the genome. When SMARCA4 is mutated, it is broken and cancer can develop through sweeping epigenetic imbalances. From this discovery, TGen evaluated experimental drugs that can restore epigenetic balance. One such drug, seclidemstat, has shown promising preclinical results in ovarian cancers and also is currently being clinically evaluated in other cancers driven by epigenetic imbalances.

Seclidemstat was developed by Salarius Pharmaceuticals of Houston, which was established with the help of Dr. Sunil Sharma, TGen Deputy Director of Clinical Sciences and Director of TGen’s Applied Cancer Research and Drug Discovery Program.

“Our partnership with Colleen’s Dream has been critical for driving our translational research toward clinical impact,” said Dr. Will Hendricks, an Assistant Professor in TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division. “We look forward to building on preclinical studies of epigenetic anti-cancer drugs that have identified seclidemstat as a promising lead for ovarian cancer treatment.”

Colleen’s Dream Foundation raises funding to support research that will lead to improved treatment and reliable early-detection of ovarian cancer. No such test currently exists, which is a leading factor as to why ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecological cancer. Of all women diagnosed, 25 percent die in the first year, largely because diagnosis occurs in the later stages of the cancer.

Since its inception, Colleen’s Dream awarded 48 research grants to 27 institutions totaling more than $1.2 million. Past recipients of Colleen’s Dream funding include, the University of Arizona Cancer Center, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, Duke Cancer Institute and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, among others.

Colleen’s Dream first awarded TGen a $30,000 grant in February 2017, which supported the institute’s understanding of the epigenetic events of the SMARCA4 mutations in SCCOHT and led to the most recent clinical trial.

To learn more about ovarian cancer, Colleen’s Dream Foundation or how you can help, visit

To learn more about this clinical trial, including when it will start and who might be eligible, please contact Callie Hammersland, TGen Clinical Research Manager, at 602-343-8653 or