SPORE: Making Strides in Prostate Cancer Research

Categories: Winter 2014
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A close-up perspective can make all the difference. © Dan Oldfield

Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs) are an integral part of the National Cancer Institute’s efforts to promote collaborative and interdisciplinary cancer research. The prestigious SPORE grants fund projects that will result in new and diverse approaches to the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. SPOREs are designed to translate scientific results into clinical settings, and to discover the biology behind observations made in people with cancer or in populations at risk for cancer.

Dr. William Catalona is Principal Investigator of one of eight SPOREs in Prostate Cancer. On September 24, Dr. Catalona, with the invaluable assistance of Dr. Robin Leikin and Katherine Lewitt, submitted a new grant application for the SPORE in Prostate Cancer. The overall objective of the SPORE proposal is to conduct studies that impact the outcomes and overall quality of life of prostate cancer patients.

Dr. Catalona and his collaborators proposed four major research projects that involve two of the most important issues in prostate cancer:

  • Identifying which patients need immediate treatment and which can be managed with active surveillance.
  • Addressing the need for new treatments for men with advanced cancer that no longer responds to current therapy.

“The SPORE will enable researchers to test new technologies and human applications to advance the highest level of translational prostate cancer research.”

Collaboration is key among top researchers

The SPORE in Prostate Cancer has assembled a committed team of researchers, including highly accomplished senior investigators, rising stars in prostate cancer research and talented new recruits. All of the SPORE investigators have a history of being highly collaborative and interactive. The results obtained from SPORE studies will be made available to all cancer investigators through a variety of mechanisms including seminars, symposia, website and publication. The investigators will meet monthly and in small groups as needed.

The program is a collaboration between Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University of Chicago’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and NorthShore University HealthSystem, with contributions from the University of California San Francisco, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Southern California. It is fully integrated into a rich research environment that both strengthens the proposed research and leverages resources available for the planned projects.

Dr. Catalona is Director of Prostate Cancer Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. This allows him to guide the research agenda of all prostate-related research at the institution. Dr. Walter Stadler, Co-Principal Investigator of the SPORE, serves as Deputy Director of the University of Chicago’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Thus, he is in a unique position to integrate the SPORE into their overall activities.

The SPORE benefits from strong institutional and philanthropic support to augment funding from the National Cancer Institute.

The SPORE proposes four major projects.

Project 1: Impact of germline genetic variants on failure of active surveillance for prostate cancer

  • Led by Drs. William Catalona, John Witte, Brian Helfand, Charles Brendler, Denise Scholtens, Ramana Davuluri and Jianfeng Xu.
  • Results from this project will develop criteria to distinguish which patients with clinically localized prostate cancer need immediate treatment versus those who can be managed with active surveillance.

Project 2: Glucocorticoid receptor transcriptional activity and the evolution of enzalutamide-resistant Castrate- Resistant Prostate Cancer

  • Led by Drs. Russell Szmulewitz, Suzanne Conzen, Donald Vander Griend and Walter Stadler.
  • The development of combination therapies to overcome resistance to hormonal therapy drugs is of paramount clinical importance.

Project 3: EphB4 receptor kinase as a target in prostate cancer

  • Led by Drs. Sarki Abdulkadir, Parkash Gill and Timothy Kuzel.
  • This project will develop the receptor tyrosine kinase called EPHB4 as a therapeutic target for human prostate cancer and will implement a clinical trial using a novel drug to treat patients.

Project 4: Targeting FoxA1- downstream pathways: a novel therapeutic strategy for Castrate-Resistant Prostate Cancer

  • Led by Drs. Jindan Yu, Raymond Bergan, Chung Lee and Timothy Kuzel.
  • This study will shed light on the role of FoxA1 in tumors that no longer respond to hormonal therapy. It will also evaluate targeted therapy that renders the tumors hormone-sensitive again.

The SPORE Cores

In addition to the research projects, the SPORE has three cores that provide the framework for collaborative research efforts:

The SPORE in Prostate Cancer brings together basic scientists, clinicians, pathologists, biostatisticians, bioinformaticists and advocates. Together, they will work through experiments to understand the basic biology of prostate cancer and design and conduct innovative paradigm-shifting clinical trials. Altogether, if funded, the results obtained through this SPORE will have a significant impact on the outcomes and overall quality of life of prostate cancer patients.

  • Administrative, Leadership Development and Advocacy Core
  • Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Core
  • Biospecimen Pathology Core

The Administrative Core introduces a Leadership Program that will mentor young investigators in developing their careers and becoming future SPORE cancer research leaders. The SPORE also includes a Developmental Research Program that provides seed money for innovative pilot projects and a Career Development Program that provides funding for young researchers during the early phases of their research careers. The SPORE investigators are dedicated to fostering the careers of junior investigators, serving as mentors to Career Development Project awardees and providing expertise to basic science laboratory investigators who wish to translate basic science results to the clinic. These programs will ensure that new ideas can be explored and future researchers can be developed.

The core funds will also support a Patient Advocacy Group. SPORE patient advocates are ambassadors between the SPORE and the larger prostate cancer community.

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