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$13 Million SPORE Grant Spurs Prostate Cancer Research

$13 Million SPORE Grant Spurs Prostate Cancer Research
M. D. Anderson News Release 04/13/01

The National Cancer Institute has awarded The University of Texas M. D.Anderson Cancer Center a $13 million SPORE grant for prostate cancer research.

Dr. Christopher J. Logothetis, chairman of the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at M. D. Anderson, is the principal investigator of the SPORE grant, which gives a boost to the institution’s integrated prostate cancer research activities.

"We are pleased to receive this critically important grant," Dr. Logothetis says. "The SPORE grant will allow investigators to more quickly develop new therapies to treat prostate cancer and accelerate the conquest of the disease, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in men."

This is the third SPORE grant given to M. D. Anderson. In 1999, M. D. Anderson’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program was awarded a five-year, $10 million SPORE grant, which recognizes Specialized Programs Of Research Excellence. A SPORE grant for lung cancer research was jointly awarded in 1996 to M. D. Anderson and UT Southwestern in Dallas, with UT Southwestern serving as the project site.

Since 1992, the National Cancer Institute has awarded SPORE grants for concentrated research in several cancer sites, including breast, prostate, lung and gastrointestinal cancers. In 1999, SPORE grants were awarded for ovarian cancer research for the first time.

According to Dr. Logothetis, "the purpose of this SPORE grant is to further develop a center of excellence for applied research in prostate cancer, which will result in findings and new treatment strategies that will benefit patients in the near-term."

The SPORE grant will fund research in five areas, including the study of:

  • Metastasis. Researchers at M. D. Anderson have identified specific enzymes that allow prostate cancer cells to migrate through the bloodstream, invade normal tissue and spread to distant sites, and which are predictive of aggressive behavior. Using this knowledge, researchers are designing drug therapies that can reverse cancer progression and improve outcomes. Project leader is Dr. Isaiah J. Fidler, chairman of the Department of Cancer Biology.
  • Angiogenesis. This research seeks to understand the specific features of tumor blood vessels that influence bone metastasis and then fully characterize them. According to researchers, there are vessels in the bone that interact with the cancer cell, allowing metastasis to occur. They have identified key endothelial markers in the bone marrow cavity and now are developing methods to deliver drugs to the bone that will prevent this interaction and stop the spread of the disease. Project leaders are Dr. Renata Pasqualini, associate professor of genitourinary medical oncology, and Dr. Logothetis.
  • Apoptosis or cell death. Studies have shown that a resistance to the normal and anticipated death of cells over time is how malignant cells accumulate in patients rather than the increased multiplication of cancer cells. Researchers at M. D. Anderson have discovered a specific molecular mechanism by which this occurs in prostate cancer. Early clinical trials have shown that the action of this pathway can be reversed, increasing the rate of tumor cell death. These findings will lead to further studies that identify new targets for therapy and complement existing therapeutic approaches. Project leaders are Dr. Timothy J. McDonnell, associate professor of molecular pathology, and Dr. Logothetis.
  • Epigenetic factors. Similar to mapping the human genome, researchers at M. D. Anderson are charting epigenetic factors found in prostate cancer and assigning them "zip codes." The identification of these factors will form the basis of understanding how patients respond to the presence of cancer and provide researchers with useful markers to develop novel therapies. Project leaders are Dr. Wadih Arap, associate professor of genitourinary medical oncology, and Dr. McDonnell.
  • Environmental predictors of cancer progression. Studies have shown that weight gain in middle age and smoking are predictors of prostate cancer and the aggressiveness of the disease. Researchers are evaluating a group of patients to determine if certain men are more susceptible to gaining weight later in life and as a consequence, more likely to develop prostate cancer. Understanding how these factors cause this disease will enable researchers to develop intervention strategies that could favorably reduce the incidence of prostate cancer and alter the course of the illness. Project leaders are Dr. Sara S. Strom, assistant professor of epidemiology, and Dr. Curtis A. Pettaway, assistant professor of urology.

In addition to the further development of key research projects, monies from the SPORE grant will aid in recruitment efforts to attract new faculty to the Prostate Cancer Research Program at M. D. Anderson. Dr. Sue-Hwa Lin, professor of molecular pathology, will spearhead this initiative.

According to Dr. Logothetis, pathologist Dr. Patricia Troncoso and biostatistician Dr. Kim-Anh Do will play an important role in the successful execution of these research initiatives, providing expertise in human pathology studies and key statistical analysis of results.

"With funds from the SPORE grant, we expect to make a significant impact in reducing prostate cancer as a major health risk for men. It’s an achievable goal," Dr. Logothetis says. "We already have made great strides in understanding how the disease occurs and progresses, and now have developed a series of targeted therapies that will be tested in the years ahead."

 

4/13/01


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