Prostate Cancer Foundation Announces Six New Challenge Awards for New Discoveries in Treatment Sciences


The PCF announced six new Challenge Awards to advance the treatment of lethal prostate cancer.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) announced six new Challenge Awards to advance the treatment of lethal prostate cancer. PCF Challenge Awards are multi-year awards supporting cross-disciplinary teams of research scientists. $39 million went toward supporting research programs in 2014.

Earlier this year, PCF solicited applications in the field of treatment sciences, a field that specifically assesses patient response to therapeutics. These projects are designed around research in humans, resulting in a direct impact on treatment strategies for millions of prostate cancer patients and their families.

“What is so meaningful about these projects is their emphasis on putting the most severe cases of prostate cancer into lasting remissions,” says Jonathan W. Simons, president and CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. “The Foundation’s support of treatment sciences research has immediate clinical relevancy that will result in game-changing therapies for all men with this disease.”

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—typically falling outside the parameters of conventional funding organizations. These innovative projects have the potential to develop game-changing diagnostic and prognostic tests for lethal disease.

Among these six new Challenge Awards is a project focused on molecular imaging, led by Robert Jeraj, of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. This project will develop an imaging method that can evaluate patient response to treatment for individual metastatic tumors. This work will allow clinicians to predict the time to disease progression for patients on enzalutamide (Xtandi, MDV3100), optimizing treatment plans and speeding the development of new therapies.

Another project, led by Nima Sharifi, of the Cleveland Clinic will develop an FDA-approved prognostic test to identify patients with genetic mutations that predispose them to treatment resistance. An inherited mutation in 3βHSD1 increases the body’s production of male hormones, leading to poor clinical outcomes when patients are treated with androgen deprivation therapy. Dr. Sharifi’s work will be translated into a new diagnostic test, which may also predict the efficacy of abiraterone (Zytiga) as an alternative treatment for these high-risk patients. This is the third PCF award bestowed on Dr. Sharifi, who was named a PCF Young Investigator in 2008, and a co-investigator on a previous Challenge Award.

All Challenge Award teams are required to embed in their team at least one PCF Young Investigator, demonstrating PCF’s commitment to the career development of early and mid-career scientists. Of the 6 projects awarded in this funding cycle, 4 are led by former PCF Young Investigators.

In addition to the above projects, the following proposals also received funding:

· “Targeting Genomic Instability in SPOP Mutant Prostate Cancer,” led by Christopher Barbieri, MD, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, a 2011 PCF Young Investigator

· “Identifying Early Biomarkers of Anti-Androgen Treatment Resistance and Lethal Prostate Cancer,” led by Christopher Maher, PhD, of Washington University, a 2010 PCF Young Investigator

· “Eliminating Lethal Micrometastic Prostate Cancer Through High Intensity Short Duration AR Suppression,” led by Mary-Ellen Taplin, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School

· “Early Detection of Neuroendocrine Prostate Cancer Transformation Using Circulating Genomic Signatures,” led by Himisha Beltran, MD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, a 2010 PCF Young Investigator

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