Suzana SavkovicSuzana Savkovic, PhD

Tulane University School of Medicine
Associate Professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Role of FOXO3 and lipid droplets in tumor growth, inflammation, and obesity


After obtaining a Masters in Molecular Biology at the University of Belgrade in Yugoslavia, Dr. Savkoivc received a PhD degree at University of Illinois at Chicago, studying the mechanisms of inflammation in response to enteric pathogens. Her post-graduate studies and training remained at the same institution further developing her project on inflammation mediated colon cancer development. Further along in her career, Dr. Savkovic become Assistant Professor at the Research Institution of Evanston-Northwestern Healthsystem, which was part of Northwestern University and then, later became associated with the University of Chicago. The main focus of Dr. Savkovic’s lab was to study the role of the transcription factor FOXO3 in inflammation-mediated tumor growth, with a specific focus on the colonic epithelium and colon cancer. Now, as an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at Tulane University and a member of the Cancer Center, Dr. Savkovic extended her research seeking to understand FOXO3 dependent Lipid Droplet density, which is critical in providing metabolic energy for sustained tumor growth in obesity models. Dr. Savkovic is the principal investigator of research grants from the National Institutes of Health and has received several awards from Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. She is also a member of American Gastroenterological Association and American Physiological Association.

Ongoing research projects related to obesity, energy metabolism, inflammation and cancer

Obesity, a worldwide health problem, is associated with polymorphisms in promoter of FOXO3 transcription factor, increased inflammation, and progression of a spectrum of tumors including colon cancer. Moreover, increased intracellular accumulation of Lipid Droplets characterizes obesity, thus potentially linking the regulatory network of FOXO3 and Lipid Droplets with obesity. Since obesity is associated with inflammation (including intestinal inflammation), the cross-talk between FOXO3 and Lipid Droplets may contribute to the increased risk of colonic tumors of obese subjects. Therefore, Dr. Savkovic’s current studies focus is on the role of the FOXO3 – Lipid Droplet network in modulating inflammation and susceptibility to colon tumor growth in experimental models of obesity.

Ongoing Projects Include

  1. The proinflammatory TNF, which is critical in both inflammation and tumor growth, and whose production is unregulated in obesity. Dr. Savkovic’s lab previously demonstrated that TNF activates the FOXO3- Lipid Droplet network in colonic tumor cells and she plans to expand these studies to incorporate the obesity aspect.
  2. The role of growth factors is critical in colonic tumor growth and the repairing of inflammation damaged tissue in FOXO3 – Lipid Droplet regulation and obesity.

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