The People of Tulane Cancer Center Research

Kim C O'ConnorKim C. O'Connor, PhD
Professor of Chemical Engineering
Adjunct Associate Professor of Surgery
Tulane Cancer Center Contributing Member

Contact Information
Phone: 504-865-5740
Address: Lindy Boggs Center #300, Tulane Uptown Campus
6823 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70118
Lab homepage

Biographical Narrative
Dr. O'Connor earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Rice University in 1982 and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering with a Minor in Biology under James Bailey at the California Institute of Technology in 1987. Her postdoctoral training was in molecular biology at Caltech and in cell biology at Northwestern University. Dr. O'Connor joined the faculty of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Tulane University in 1990 as an Assistant Professor, and currently is an Associate Professor. In addition to her primary appointments at Tulane, she has served as Co-Director (1996-1999) and Interim Director (1997) of the Interdisciplinary Molecular & Cellular Biology Graduate Program at Tulane University and School of Medicine, adjunct associate professor in the Department of Surgery at Tulane Medical School (1999-present), and a member of the Tulane Cancer Center since its founding in 1994. Dr. O'Connor's recent awfards include the NASA Space Act Award, Tulane Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Tulane Interdisciplinary Teaching Award, and Society of Tulane Engineers and Lee H. Johnson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. She has authored a total of 50 publications including 2 patents and over 20 peer-reviewed articles. Dr. O'Connor's research in the field of oncology is interdisciplinary, applying engineering theory and techniques to cancer biology to develop new cancer tissue models. The focus of her work has been multicellular spheroids of neoplastic cells, which mimic micrometastases and avascular regions of tumors from the perspectives of differentiated function and spatial organization. Using DU 145 human prostate carcinoma cells as a model system, Dr. O'Connor's laboratory has demonstrated that there are profound changes in protein expression and signal transduction when DU 145 cells form spheroids from monolayer culture. The resulting phenotype is more consistent with that of an intact tumor. In a second line of investigation using both well and poorly differentiated human prostate carcinoma cell lines, her laboratory applied computational and image analysis to characterize the kinetics of spheroid self-assembly. The kinetic properties are sensitive to changes in adhesive properties among different cell lines and within a given cell line in response to an up-regulation of cell adhesion molecules upon spheroid formation. The applications of Dr. O'Connor's research include in vitro drug testing and assessing the metastatic potential of tumor cells.

Selected Publications
Clejan S, O'Connor KC, Cowger NL, Cheles MK, Haque S, Primavera AC. (1996) Effects of simulated microgravity on DU 145 human prostate carcinoma cells. Biotechnol Bioeng 50: 587-597.

O'Connor KC, Enmon RM, Dotson RS, Primavera AC, Clejan S. (1997) Characterization of autocrine growth factors, their receptors and extracellular matrix present in three-dimensional cultures of DU 145 human prostate carcinoma cells grown in simulated microgravity. Tissue Eng 3: 161-171.

O'Connor KC. (1999) Three-dimensional cultures of prostatic cells: tissue models for the development of novel anti-cancer therapies. Pharm Res 16: 486-493.

Clejan S, O'Connor KC, Rosensweig N. (2001) Tri-dimensional prostate cell cultures in simulated microgravity and induced changes in lipid second messengers and signal transduction. J Cell Mol Med 5: 60-73.

Enmon RM, O'Connor KC, Lacks DJ, Schwartz DK, Dotson RS. (2001) Dynamics of spheroid self-assembly in liquid-overlay cultures of DU 145 human prostate cancer cells. Biotechnol Bioeng 72: 579-591.


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