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UCLA Cancer Center Earns Most Prostate Cancer Awards

For the second consecutive year, scientists at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center have earned more CaP CURE prostate cancer research awards than any other single institution nationwide.

In all, 10 UCLA scientists will receive grants this year totaling more than $1 million to look for the causes of and find better treatments for prostate cancer.

The $1 million in grants comes from the Association for the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate, an organization founded by Michael Milken in 1993 to identify and support prostate cancer research that will rapidly translate into new treatments and, perhaps, cures.

Prominent UCLA cancer researcher Dr. Charles Sawyers, who received $100,000 from CaP CURE this year, said the grants will push forward what is already rapidly accelerating research into prostate cancer.

"The prostate cancer field is exploding with new insights about molecular disease mechanisms, much of which is based on original research by UCLA investigators," said Sawyers, who directs the Prostate Cancer Program Area at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center. "In today's climate of successful targeted therapies for breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma, it is easy to envision how these same strategies might be brought to bear on prostate cancer. I expect the UCLA prostate cancer program will play a leading role in this endeavor."

One in six men is at risk of developing prostate cancer in their lifetime, according to CaP CURE. In all, more than 180,500 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year alone. Of those, nearly 32,000 men will die.

"CaP CURE is extremely pleased with the prostate cancer research program that has evolved at UCLA. The scientific leadership there is focused on programs that will rapidly translate into clinical benefits for prostate cancer patients," said Dr. Howard Soule, executive vice president and chief science officer for CaP CURE. "It is our strong desire that CaP CURE resources will continue to mobilize this unique group to solve the prostate cancer problem for all affected men and their families."

Currently, surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiation are the only approved treatments for prostate cancer, and all have side effects. The CaP CURE grants may lead to new, targeted therapies that result in fewer side effects for patients, Sawyers said.

UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center researchers receiving CaP CURE grants this year include:

* Dr. Michael F. Carey (Sherman Oaks), a professor of biological chemistry, will investigate how the androgen receptor contributes to prostate cancer progression through its interaction with other proteins, and search for proteins that may help physicians better determine the stages of prostate cancer.

* Dr. Pinchas Cohen (Pacific Palisades), a professor of pediatrics and director of research and training in the division of pediatric endocrinology at the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, will investigate interactions between two classes of hormonal factors that control prostate cancer development, growth hormones and retinoids, or Vitamin A analogues. Pinchas hopes that finding a combination of specific medications that lead to the death of prostate cancer cells will provide new alternatives for therapy.

* Dr. Sanjiv "Sam" Gambhir (Westwood), director of UCLA's Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging and an associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, will investigate non-invasive imaging of prostate cancer in laboratory models. These approaches will combine the use of microCT, microPET, and optical approaches to look at gene expression in prostate cancer. Gambhir hopes to develop methods to follow prostate cancer cells as they grow and spread in a living laboratory model so researchers can eventually use such diagnostic methods in humans.

* Dr. Jay R. Lieberman (West Los Angeles), an associate professor of orthopedic surgery, will study how prostate cancer cells metastasize, or spread, to bone and work to develop therapies that prevent these metastases from forming or limit their growth once they occur.

* Dr. Robert Reiter (Westwood), associate director of the Prostate Cancer Program Area at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and an assistant professor of urology, will investigate prostate stem cell antigen (PSCA), a promising target for monoclonal antibody therapy. Reiter's research has shown that monoclonal antibodies against PSCA can inhibit prostate cancer growth in laboratory models and he will be furthering that work.

* Dr. Charles Sawyers (Brentwood), director of the Prostate Cancer Program Area at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and a professor of medicine and urology, will study men whose prostate cancer has a mutation in the tumor suppressor gene PTEN. Laboratory studies show that a novel drug that is targeted to this gene pathway has promising activity, and that drug will soon be tested in humans.

* Dr. Marc A. Seltzer (Los Angeles), an assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, will investigate the use of PET scanning to monitor treatment in patients with prostate cancer that resists hormone therapy.

* Dr. Peter Tontonoz (West Los Angeles), an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, will investigate a protein called PPARg, which turns genes on and off in prostate cancer cells in response to dietary fats. Drugs called thiazolidinediones, currently used to treat type II diabetes, also can activate PPARg. Previous studies have shown that these drugs also inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. Tontonoz is working to identify the genes involved in this cell pathway.

* Dr. Owen Witte (Sherman Oaks), an investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, will attempt to define the temporal expression pattern for thousands of different genes using advanced gene chip technologies. This information should help define potential targets for diagnosis and therapy in prostate cancer.

* Dr. Hong Wu (Westwood), assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, has engineered a new strain of mice that develop prostate cancer due to a mutation in the same gene that is implicated in a subset of men with prostate cancer. Wu will use this laboratory model to test new drugs for prostate cancer and help guide their use in the clinic.

Last year, eight scientists at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center were singled out for more than $700,000 in CaP CURE grants. UCLA won more awards in 2000 than any other single research center in the country, Sawyers said.

Related website:

UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center

[Contact: Kim Irwin]






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