Michigan Universities Receive $9.2M for Prostate Cancer-based Translational Research

Sep 23, 2019 | National Cancer Institute, NCI, Prostate Cancer, University of Michigan, University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPOR) has allocated $9.2 million into a grant for the State of Michigan’s two elite cancer programs including the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute—both are joining forces to collaborate and proactively address key questions about how prostate cancer develops and how best to treat the pervasive male cancer.

The Michigan Prostate SPOR

The Michigan institutions have experience with the SPOR program. For example, the Rogel Cancer Center first received one of the first SPOR prostate cancer grants in 1995. They have been continuously funded since then, which has translated into what their press release reports as “several landmark discoveries identifying key genetic drivers of prostate cancer.”

Three SPOR Initiatives in Michigan

Centering on three projects with a focus on the translation of laboratory discoveries into clinical advances, the Michigan Prostate SPORE readies to advance our understanding of prostate cancer. The projects include:

  1. Understanding a new subset of metastatic prostate cancer. Arul M. Chinnaiyan’s lab has previously found 7% of metastatic prostate cancer patients have loss of the gene CDK12. This subset of tumors produce more immune T-cells and laboratory studies suggest they may be responsive to immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors, a treatment that has overall had limited success in prostate cancer. This project will focus on metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer with CDK12 mutation, seeking to uncover new treatment targets or biomarkers and to perform clinical trials using immune checkpoint inhibitors.
  2. Using a urine test for early detection and high risk. One of the biggest questions in prostate cancer is distinguishing between which tumors are slow-growing, requiring minimal intervention, and which are likely to be aggressive and need immediate treatment. This project will investigate a new urine-based test developed at U-M that looks at a combination of multiple prostate markers, genes and other risk variants. The goal is to improve early detection of prostate cancer in those at high genetic risk and to understand among those diagnosed with prostate cancer who would need aggressive treatment and who may benefit from a less-intensive approach.
  3. Overcoming treatment resistance. The hormone androgen plays a key role in prostate cancer, with current treatment including drugs designed to block signals from the androgen receptor. The problem is, nearly all tumors become resistant to these therapies. This project will investigate a new way of targeting the androgen receptor’s messenger RNA in the hopes that disrupting the signaling upstream could block any androgen receptor signaling in the tumor, essentially depleting all androgen receptor signaling.

Investigator Comments

“With the Michigan Prostate SPORE, we hope to improve outcomes for men with prostate cancer by making scientific advances that address critical questions in how the disease develops and how best to treat it. The partnership between the Rogel Cancer Center and Karmanos will help us find innovative solutions that ultimately benefit patients,” says co-principal investigator Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and S.P. Hicks Professor of Pathology at Michigan Medicine.

Lead Research/Investigator

Arul M. Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD, director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and S.P. Hicks Professor of Pathology at Michigan Medicine

Ganesh Palapattu, MD, co-director Michigan Prostate SPORE

Elisabeth Health, MD, FACP, co-director Michigan Prostate SPORE

Call to Action: For those in the industry with interest in prostate cancer translational research, it might make sense to track the Michigan Prostate SPORE work over the next few years.


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