Drs. Elahe Mostaghel and Jason Bielas recently received New Investigator Awards from the Department of Defense’s Prostate Cancer Research Program.
Bielas, an investigator in the Public Health Sciences Division, will use his three-year, $365,000 grant to develop a blood-based, non-invasive screening test to diagnose prostate cancer and determine its stage by monitoring the prevalence of tumor-associated mitochondrial DNA mutations at very precise levels. Currently, suspected prostate cancer is typically confirmed by taking a biopsy of the prostate and further tests like CT and bone scans are used to determine whether prostate cancer has spread. Bielas hopes the new markers will be predictive of the biological behavior of prostate tumors, which would guide the type and aggressiveness of therapy used. He believes his findings could be applied to other cancers.
The Human Biology Division’s Mostaghel received total funding of $225,000 for three years. She will evaluate how prostate tumor cells respond to treatment that targets the production of testosterone not only in the blood, but in the tumor itself, by using new drugs under development that can block the testosterone synthesis machinery inside the tumor cells. Mostaghel will compare tumor response to currently available prostate cancer drugs versus a new powerful drug, VN-124.
“While we predict tumor cells will respond better to VN-124, the real goal is to understand the biology of the prostate cancer cell as it develops resistance to therapy,” Mostaghel said. “Ideally, hormonal therapy would completely eliminate or cure the prostate cancer cell. However, it is more likely that over time, the tumor cells will develop resistance mechanisms which may be different from currently understood pathways of resistance.” This understanding, she said, will help identify the relevant molecular pathways to target in the future.
Since its inception in 1997, the Prostate Cancer Research Program has received $890 million in congressional appropriations and remains the world’s second-largest funding agent of extramural prostate cancer research. The program uses innovative approaches, including input from consumer advocates, to funnel these funds directly into innovative research to accelerate discovery, translate discoveries into clinical practice, and improve the quality of care for men with prostate cancer.
This article has been reprinted from http://www.fhcrc.org/about/pubs/center_news/online/2009/12/DOD_grants.html. Written By COLLEEN STEELQUIST.
A $5 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will accelerate the Hutchinson Center’s progress toward early detection of breast and prostate cancer through an innovative “proof-of-principle” project that will set new standards for the field.
Early cancer-detection research strives to identify specific biomarkers — tumor-derived or responsive proteins in the blood — that can indicate the presence of cancer long before symptoms begin, when the opportunity for cure is highest. The term “proof-of-principle” refers to a project that confirms a premise — in this case, by testing the theory that biomarkers can herald early cancer development with a high degree of accuracy in a living organism. The Allen Foundation’s grant will fund science at the Center that seeks to demonstrate that biomarkers can be correlated with the presence of cancer in a mouse, yielding a blueprint for future discoveries relevant to early cancer detection in humans.
“The Allen Foundation’s landmark gift will enable us to reach toward our vision of detecting cancer at its earliest stages using a simple and highly accurate blood test,” said Dr. Lee Hartwell, president and director. “Identifying biomarkers in a mouse model, which is genetically predictable in the laboratory, leverages our ability to find cancer early in humans,” Hartwell said.
The resulting knowledge ultimately could shift the emphasis of cancer care away from treatment of advanced disease and toward early detection of cancer in persons known to be susceptible or just starting to develop the disease, Hartwell said.
Paul Allen said that through the grant he seeks to strengthen one of the Northwest’s leading scientific assets, laying the groundwork for federal and industry involvement in the Center’s early cancer-detection research.
“The scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are not afraid to undertake risky projects to achieve big payoffs, which aligns with our philosophy at the Foundation,” Allen said. “Ambitious and high-risk projects like these are necessary, and we hope they will ultimately lead to higher cancer-survival rates.”