Toronto, ON – A research team led by Dr. Paul Rennie of the Vancouver Prostate Centre and the University of British Columbia has been awarded $1.5 million by Prostate Cancer Canada for research that aims to accelerate the pace of discovery of novel therapies for advanced prostate cancer.
The new compounds that will be developed with the support of the Translation Acceleration Grant (TAG) funding have the potential to produce “a whole new generation of drugs to deal with hormone resistance,” said Dr. Rennie. These drugs could potentially be used alone or in combination with other therapies to provide more effective and less toxic treatment of advanced prostate cancer.
“This research team anticipates conducting human trials within three years,” says Dr. Stuart Edmonds, VP research, health promotion and survivorship, Prostate Cancer Canada. “This is the type of initiative that is meeting a critical demand, and giving renewed hope to prostate cancer patients.”
Recent years have seen significant developments overall in the quality and precision of treatment, with a 40% reduction in mortality over the last 20 years.
“However, many men continue to die of the disease. Most new treatments have been successful in prolonging the lives of late-stage prostate cancer patients but not saving lives,” says Dr. Edmonds. “Although many cases are slow growing and respond well to treatment, somewhere between 10% to 15%   have aggressive cancer that spreads to other parts of the body, including vital organs. The stark reality is that prostate cancer accounts for the third-most cancer deaths for men, after lung and colorectal.”
Dr. Rennie’s group is developing compounds that target androgen receptors using different pathways than current therapies. The main function of androgen receptors is to bind with male hormones, but they also have the unfortunate ability to stimulate tumour growth – which is why they are the target of many current prostate cancer therapies. The challenge has been that mutations or other modifications in the androgen receptors can reduce the ability of current therapies to bind and attack the tumour. The result can be less effective treatment and more toxic side effects for the patients.
“In the last decade, there have been strides in the therapies for advanced state prostate cancer, with more options available when treatments fail,” says Dr. Bernie Eigl, medical oncologist, clinical associate professor at UBC and provincial director of clinical trials at the B.C. Cancer Agency. “Right now, we’re in an acceleration phase. This is a critical time to sustain and build momentum for research.”