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$1.5M grant to help study into progression of prostate cancer


Vancouver, BC – April 12, 2004 – BC Cancer Agency researchers have received a $1.5 million grant to analyze the behaviour of prostate tumour cells. The study will use leading-edge technology in an attempt to develop better therapies for treating late-stage prostate cancer. Currently there are no effective therapies available for this stage of the disease.

The five-year grant, awarded to Dr Marianne Sadar by the US National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Health, will use a variety of techniques to grow tumour tissue, analyze the tissue’s genome and proteome, find new biomarkers, and identify better drug targets for this type of cancer.

Current treatment for advanced prostate cancer is androgen withdrawal. While initially effective, this treatment isn’t able to completely eliminate all prostate cancer cells, and eventually, patients will suffer a relapse. Understanding the progression of prostate cancer to androgen independence is essential to developing better treatments.

One of the keys to this research is a method for growing the tumour tissue for research using a technique developed in Dr Sadar’s lab. She says the method used in other labs to mimic progression of prostate cancer tissue becomes quickly contaminated with the host’s cells, making it useless for genomic and proteomic analyses.

The approach used in Dr Sadar’s lab employs growing tumours in hollow fibres to prevent contamination and remarkably still allow the cells to progress to androgen independence. The fibres are harvested at various stages for analysis. Genomic and proteomic analyses have the power to reveal what makes the disease progress to the terminal stage.

“Models that mimic particular aspects of prostate cancer are essential to obtain a breakthrough in curing this disease” explains Dr Sadar. “Our prostate cancer program has become a leader in this field thereby setting the stage for new discoveries. These models, together with the capacity of genomic and proteomic analyses places the BC Cancer Agency in a unique position that cannot currently be duplicated elsewhere in the world, which is a criteria to obtain funding from the US.”

By understanding how, when and why the cells no longer respond to the androgen deprivation at each stage of the disease’s progression, the BC Cancer Agency researchers hope to discover new biomarkers and the pathways involved. In turn, these biomarkers will enable researchers and clinicians to develop prognostic and diagnostics tests. Identification of the pathways will aid in developing new drug targets.

Project co-investigators and collaborators include Dr Marco Marra, Dr Steven Jones, Dr Rob Holt, Dr Yuzhuo Wang, Dr Mira Keyes, and Dr Diponkar Banerjee, all of the BC Cancer Agency.