Team, led by Dr. Dan Theodorescu, wins
$6 million grant to study prostate cancer
Photo by Dan Addison
| Dr. Dan Theodorescu
By Mary Jane Gore
A research team at the Health System has received more than $6 million in federal funding to investigate a cell signaling process that may help to explain the way that prostate cancer spreads. This five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow the team to investigate changes in cellular and molecular signals that are related to the spread of tumors.
“The work being carried out by our team in this comprehensive new program at U.Va. will make long-term contributions to the understanding and therapy of metastatic and hormone-independent prostate cancer,” said Dr. Dan Theodorescu, principal investigator of the project, Paul Mellon Professor of Urology and director of the U.Va. Mellon Prostate Cancer Institute. “This knowledge will hopefully lead to clinical trials that we can design and carry out at U.Va.”
The American Cancer Society estimates that 232,900 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2005, and that 30,350 men will die from this disease.
The goal of the program is to uncover changes in signal transduction that lie beneath the progression of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer usually begins as a single tumor, and its growth depends on levels of male hormones, called androgens. The cancer then spreads without any dependence on hormones, usually to the bones.
U.Va. researchers expect the work of this program to create a substantial foundation for understanding how and why prostate cancer spreads and ultimately to lead to new treatments. Signal transduction is a key to understanding the growth, metastasis and progression of cancer. It has been identified by many drug and biotechnology companies as a target for developing therapeutic and diagnostic agents.
The program combines the multidisciplinary expertise of signal transduction researchers with that of researchers familiar with human prostate cancer biology and animal-models medicine. In addition, several of the program project leaders are practicing physicians with clinical expertise in either prostate cancer or bone metastasis, which will help to directly align research questions with the needs of prostate cancer patients.
Principal investigators and core directors in the program include: Mark Conaway, Ph.D., Henry Frierson, M.D., Theresa Guise, M.D., Sarah Parsons, Ph.D., Thomas Parsons, Ph.D., Bryce Paschal, Ph.D. and Michael Weber, Ph.D. Participating University departments and centers include pathology, public health sciences, microbiology, medicine, urology, the Cell Signaling Center, the Cancer Center and the Paul Mellon Prostate Cancer Institute.