How Does Prostate Cancer Outsmart Therapy?
A recent news release from Newswise caught my eye. It said: ‘Dream Team' wins $10 million grant to probe mystery of advanced prostate cancer." It went on to explain that while many men survive prostate cancer, thousands of others -- whose cancer spreads -- inevitably develop resistance to even the most promising treatments, leaving them with few medical options and a dwindling span of life. So now a "dream team" - a group of scientists armed with $10 million in grant money, is embarking on a groundbreaking undertaking into personalized medicine. The goal is to overcome therapeutic resistance in the disease and revolutionize treatment for patients with advanced prostate cancer.
"I am incredibly excited about this project. It has the potential to completely transform the way we take care of our patients with advanced prostate cancer,'' said Eric J. Small, MD, a UCSF professor and deputy director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is the principal investigator of the project.
"Despite a number of new drugs that have been approved for this disease, some of which we helped develop at UCSF, many of our patients still develop resistance to these agents and die from progressive disease,'' Small said via Newswise. "This work will help identify the causes of resistance in an individual patient, and help us tailor therapy for that patient.''
As the team's dream is realized, personalized medicine will take yet another leap forward with this attention to individual precision of treatment.
The dream team scientists will focus on identifying the causes of resistance in some 500 patients with advanced prostate cancer and tailoring therapy for them. They hope that more effective therapies will be developed, and in the process, patients will be spared unnecessary treatment.
"So often when we start to use a new drug, the patient feels well and he responds well therapeutically -- you have a moment of hope,'' said Phillip G. Febbo, MD, a professor of medicine and urology, and co-director of the prostate cancer program at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. "But all too soon, the hope fades.The benefits of therapy become short-lived, the cancer figures out how to adapt to the therapy, and it begins to grow again. It is incredibly frustrating for the physician, and deeply disturbing to the patient and his family. This project centers on determining how the cancer so quickly learns how to outsmart our therapy.''
The dream team project, involving more than 30 investigators at six institutions, consists of three components:
- Biopsies and blood samples of some 500 patients with advanced prostate will be obtained;
- The samples will undergo a comprehensive molecular assessment and pathway-based analysis - the scientists will search for biomarker predictors of sensitivity to specific therapies, along with predictors of resistance to the therapies;
- Treatment approaches will be developed for each patient based on his individual genetic information.
Davide Ruggero, PhD, a UCSF associate professor of urology and the Helen Diller Family Endowed Chair of Basic Research in Urologic Cancer, will lead the development of genetically engineered mouse models to determine the pathways of therapeutic resistance. "Once we discover the mechanisms of resistance, we can develop new therapies,'' said Davide Ruggero, PhD, a UCSF associate professor of urology and the Helen Diller Family Endowed Chair of Basic Research in Urologic Cancer. "This is a very big problem and with this project, we are hoping to make a leap forward.''
The grant, which will provide up to $10 million over three years, is funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). The American Association for Cancer Research - the scientific partner of SU2C - oversees the selection and grant administration process, and provides scientific oversight during the research phases.