PC-TRIADD: The Prostate Centre's Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in North American men, afflicting more than 200,000 and killing more than 40,000 men a year. Prostate cancer becomes increasingly common with advancing age. As a result, the incidence is projected to double by 2020, as the baby boomers age. Recent research has led to a 12 per cent reduction in prostate cancer deaths over the past three years; however, recurrence remains a significant hurdle, with tumours commonly developing resistance to cancer therapy.
PC-TRIADD is a new initiative of the Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital, where scientists and clinicians work together to translate discovery research into clinical practice through the development and implementation of clinical trials to assess the safety and effectiveness of new gene therapies. The centre contains the largest prostate tumor bank in Canada, and was the first organization in B.C. to construct and use “high throughput microarrays,” which enables researchers to study thousands of genes simultaneously from tissue samples. Scientists at the centre have already identified five key genes that cause prostate cancer to progress, and have developed targeted drugs that are currently being tested in clinical trials.
Scientists and clinicians in this research unit are working to increase the rate at which scientific discovery in prostate cancer can be translated into better treatment options. The team is focusing on the genetic mechanisms influencing the progression of the disease and the development of resistance to cancer treatments. This research also has the potential to improve treatments for other cancers.
Hormone treatments remove the androgens (male sex hormones) that control prostate tumour growth. But due to genetic changes triggered by cancer therapy, surviving tumour cells may eventually develop resistance to treatment and begin to grow in the absence of androgens. That’s why researchers are investigating how prostate cancer grows at the molecular level. Their goal is to identify new gene therapies that specifically target prostate cancer and further improve the survival rate. These issues are not specific to prostate cancer, so discoveries may also apply to many other types of cancer. MSFHR funding will support five research themes:
The microarray facility is the primary screen for identifying potential genes or gene clusters associated with patients’ response to treatment, resistance to therapy, and the death or progression of cancer cells.
This team will collect and catalogue specimens to confirm treatment-induced changes in genes identified by the microarrays, and create a database of hundreds of genes that change during cancer treatment or progression.
The function of genes associated with the development of treatment resistance will be evaluated. Sophisticated imaging technology will also be used to track tumour growth and metastasis (the spread of cancer cells from an original tumor to other parts of the body).
New drug therapies will be developed and evaluated for optimal formulation, delivery and metabolism in the body.
Drugs developed by PC-TRIADD will be tested, in collaboration with BC biotech companies, leading to clinical trials in cancer patients. Four new trials will commence in 2005.