September 22nd, 2013

To date, Movember has funded $10 million of Challenge Awards through the PCF to support innovative and collaborative prostate cancer research.

Movember-PCF Challenge Awards
Where The Money Goes

To date, Movember has funded $10 million of Challenge Awards through the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) to support innovative and collaborative prostate cancer research.

These multi-year Movember-PCF Challenge Awards grants are given to teams of cross-disciplinary scientists working together on first-in-field research that will ultimately impact treatments for men with prostate cancer. The awards are given to teams focused on translational science, moving science from the lab to the patient.

The Movember-PCF Challenge Awards aim to achieve major unmet medical needs for men with prostate cancer. A request for applications is sent to thousands of researchers across the globe, with winners chosen for their scientific merit by a peer review panel.

The areas of research being pursued by the projects selected reflect a dazzling array of innovation, including research on four next-generation medicines and two new platform technologies in personalized oncology, which have the potential to dramatically change the landscape of prostate cancer research and treatment.

“We are proud to partner with Movember to fund these cross-disciplinary teams of scientists with bold approaches to the most challenging and perplexing problems in prostate cancer research,” said Jonathan W. Simons, MD, president and CEO of PCF. “We are profoundly grateful for the generous support of the Movember community.”

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death for men in the United States and currently affects more than two million American men. One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

The projects summarized below were chosen to represent a range of focus and expertise that will tackle the most challenging problems that prostate cancer patients face in the clinic.

Six awards: 2013 Movember-PCF Challenge Awards

Maha Hussain, MD (University of Michigan)
In most patients, prostate cancer typically progresses from being hormone-sensitive (responds to therapy) to treatment resistant. Dr. Maha Hussain and her colleagues will evaluate the effectiveness of a unique, first-in-field combination of two therapies that target primary drivers of aggressive disease: androgen signaling and cancer cell growth and multiplication. They will test the combination of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) using the FDA-approved drug, bicalutamide and experimental inhibitor, PD-0332991 (provided by Pfizer) vs. ADT alone in these patients. The successful completion of this project will potentially credential a novel biomarker-driven approach to combination therapy for patients with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer.

Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD (University of Michigan)
Dr. Chinnaiyan and his team at University of Michigan are working on a new pill-form of treatment that attacks the most serious form of prostate cancer and suppresses genes that encourage cancerous growth and spread. This new mechanism for treatment delivery will target metastatic prostate cancer that has moved all over the body, ideally killing the cancer. 

Josh Lang, MD (University of Wisconsin)
Dr. Lang and his team are using a novel microfluidic technology known as the VERSA  platform to isolate trace amounts of tumor cells that slough off tumors, enter the bloodstream and can then exit the bloodstream in other areas of the body to establish new tumors. By taking nano amounts of blood to evaluate the cancer tumor cells, they create a liquid biopsy, which can provide clinicians with tools to better predict drug treatment response and identify emerging mechanisms of drug resistance, all from a simple blood draw.  

Yu Chen, MD, PhD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center)
Prostate cancer does not grow easily outside the body in a lab setting. Dr. Yu Chen and his collaborators will be generating prostate organoids and tumoroids, genetically indistinguishable from human prostate cells and cancer cells respectively. Dr. Chen’s preliminary results show that these organoids and tumoroids grow stably in the laboratory and can be stored and shipped easily. These turmoroids can be used to study prostate cancer and experiment with better treatments and cancer response to specific drugs.

Peter Nelson, MD (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center)
In prostate cancer, testosterone is the fuel and androgen receptor (AR) is the engine. AR is the main driving factor behind prostate cancer progression and disease treatment resistance. It is believed to be the master regulator of tumor cell survival to which prostate cancers are ‘addicted.’ Therefore, a majority of current therapeutics and those under evaluation focus on unique ways of targeting AR and its downstream signaling. Dr. Nelson is asking, if you suppress AR, what’s causes cancer to still grow? Current medicines block the AR, but what is the next generation of drugs for treatment resistant prostate cancer?

Omid Farokhzad, MD (Harvard Medical School)
How can we silence a gene whose expression promotes cancer progression? Dr. Farokhzad has created systems (nanoparticles) that deliver drugs to tumors. He and his team are trying to silence the expression of a major metabolic gene, MYC that when expressed promotes cancer progression. Inhibiting MYC will inhibit the cancer’s ability to find energy, and it will stop growing. Prostate tumor-directed nano-therapeutic will be a gene silencer that will keep cancer from growing and kill the cancer.

Three awards: 2012 Movember-PCF Challenge Awards

Karen Knudsen, PhD (Thomas Jefferson University)
DNA Damage Response (DDR) pathway alterations are changes in DNA repair mechanisms that promote genomic instability and have been associated with local and advanced prostate cancer. Dr. Knudsen and team will identify and determine the relevance of these DNA repair defects in prostate cancer patients and their role in the development and progression of treatment-resistant prostate cancer. Dr. Knudsen and colleagues will then evaluate the effects of combination therapy with a certain repair protein and next generation anti-androgens in treatment-resistant prostate cancer patients.

John Isaacs, PhD (Thomas Jefferson University)
A type of stem cell derived from human bone marrow called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can hone to sites of prostate cancer after IV administration. Dr. Isaacs and team plan to use MSCs as a “Trojan Horse” to deliver therapeutic agents to metastatic prostate cancer sites. This first-in-man clinical study will assess the ability of MSCs to hone in on sites of prostate cancer by infusing them into men with localized prostate cancer prior to prostatectomy.

Rob Reiter, MD (University of California, Los Angeles)
Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process by which cancer cells become migratory and invasive, resulting in cancer metastasis and treatment resistance. Dr. Reiter and colleagues hypothesize that interrupting the adaptive EMT response will prolong disease free survival. Data from the clinical trial and preclinical models will help to identify alternative drivers of EMT, new targets and new treatment combinations to optimally inhibit metastasis. The successful development of a combination drug treatment strategy (inhibition of AR and EMT) should prevent metastasis and the development of treatment resistance.