$3 Million Awarded as Prostate Cancer Foundation Announces First Research Awards of 2015

PCF's Challenge Awards advance immunotherapy and optimal treatments for lethal prostate cancer.
PUBLISHED March 24, 2015
The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) announces three new Challenge Awards to support discoveries for the treatment of lethal prostate cancer. PCF Challenge Awards are multi-year awards supporting cross-disciplinary teams of research scientists. These are the first major awards funded by PCF in 2015. 

In 2014, PCF solicited proposals for the Global Treatment Sciences Network (GTSN) Challenge Awards as part of an initiative to support research on novel medicines, treatment strategies, and standards of care. All projects must focus on research in humans, resulting in a swift, direct impact in the care of millions of prostate cancer patients and their families. With these new awards, PCF now funds 9 research teams working in the field of treatment sciences.

“Our focus in 2015 is to fast-track discoveries that will have immediate clinical relevancy for advanced prostate cancer,” says Jonathan W. Simons, president and CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. “The innovative work conducted by our Challenge Award teams will revolutionize the way advanced prostate cancer is diagnosed and managed. This will improve the outcome for all men with this disease.”

The importance of all three PCF Challenge Awards detailed below is their shared goal of putting men with advanced prostate cancer back into longer remission when existing drugs no longer are working.  Some men have significant increased survival from prostate cancer treated with chemotherapy; others do not. Two of the PCF Challenge Awards, however, one from Thomas Jefferson University and the other from Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute will move research forward on correctly predicting which patient is which.

The first of these 2015 PCF GTSN Challenge Awards, titled “Optimizing First Line Treatment for Men with Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer,” led by William Kevin Kelly, of Thomas Jefferson University, examines whether the status of the retinoblastoma gene in tumors can function as a biomarker to determine whether patients with lethal prostate cancer will respond to abiraterone (Zytiga) or chemotherapy.  As part of this project, Kelly and his team will develop models from patient data that determine the optimal duration of chemotherapy administration.  The results of this work will help clinicians make the best decisions for the treatment of prostate cancer patients. 

Hing Leung,  of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, leads the second successful project, “Optimizing the Use of Taxane Chemotherapy in Prostate Cancer.” Leung and team are studying patients treated with chemotherapy in order to identify biomarkers that can predict which patients will most benefit from chemotherapy, and to identify mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance.  They will also study how metabolic changes can alter sensitivity to chemotherapy, which will identify novel targets for new experimental drugs that could be combined with chemotherapy. 
 
“T-cell Receptor Gene Therapy for Treatment of Lethal Prostate Cancer,” the third successful proposal, is led by Nobel Prize winner David Baltimore,  of the California Institute of Technology. Baltimore and his team are studying how patient immune cells (T-cells) recognize prostate tumors in order to generate an effective T-cell gene therapy for prostate cancer patients. They will determine the best strategy for genetically modifying a patient’s own T-cells to fight their tumor and optimize the delivery and efficacy of this therapy in preclinical models. This project will lead immediately to clinical trials, fast-forwarding the delivery of novel therapies to advanced prostate cancer patients.

PCF Challenge Awards are composed of teams of scientists from 3 or more cancer centers. In order to conduct pioneering research, these entrepreneurial scientists require large investments in areas that fall outside the parameters of traditional funding organizations. As a stipulation of funding, all PCF Challenge Award teams must include at least one PCF Young Investigator, demonstrating the Foundation’s commitment to the career development of early and mid-career scientists.

Awardees were selected from a pool of 55 applicants, representing 48 institutions in 13 countries around the world. Each submitted proposal was subjected to a rigorous, two-round peer review process in which the projects were assessed for clinical relevancy and their potential for near-term impact on standard of care. Priority was given to high-risk, first-in-field and currently unfunded projects.
 
For more information, visit pcf.org/manhoodforgood.
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