Several types of cancer are unique to women. Among these is cancer of the endometrium (endometrial or uterine cancer). The endometrium—the inner lining of the uterus (womb)—normally functions during pregnancy, but can give rise to endometrial cancers and “precancers”. The reasons are not entirely understood, but are related to hormonal exposures, diet, random chance, and other factors. Most cases occur in women in their 50s or 60s, but can also occur in women in their 20s and 30s.
Our work is aimed at understanding why these malignancies arise and spread, with an eye on prevention, earlier and more accurate diagnosis, improved treatments, and better overall patient outcomes. We employ diverse research methods, such as massively parallel DNA sequencing, together with other sophisticated genetic model systems, to understand the complex molecular interactions controlling endometrial cell growth, which—when subverted—result in cancer.
The endometrium is a unique tissue that “cycles” with hormones produced by the ovaries, making endometrial cancers particularly complex and challenging to study and diagnose.
Endometrial cancer is one of the most common malignancies in women accounting for 7% of all cancers and with an estimated 62,000 new cases and 12,000 cancer-related deaths per year in the United States alone. For unclear reasons, endometrial cancer research has lagged behind other cancers in terms of public awareness and research funding relative to its significance to society. For example, endometrial cancer ranks at the bottom with respect to funding relative to its overall incidence and mortality (among all human cancers).
For several years, the Castrillon laboratory has been studying various types of endometrial cancer, giving us clear perspectives on research opportunities and new and potentially high-impact research directions.
Dr. Castrillon is board certified in Anatomic Pathology and is a staff pathologist at Clements University Hospital and Parkland Hospital with the UT Southwestern Gynecologic Pathology Division, specializing in the diagnosis of women’s cancers and other obstetric and gynecologic conditions.