Researchers at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center have received a $12 million National Cancer Institute grant to lead an international project aimed at identifying new biological pathways critical to the development and potential treatment of prostate cancer.
The four-year grant will bring together researchers from 13 institutions across the United States and Europe to identify common gene variants involved in the developmental progression of prostate cancer. Insight into prostate cancer biology will assist in the development of new targets for preventive and therapeutic interventions.
The grant is one of five awarded by the National Cancer Institute for transdisciplinary research projects to exploit findings from existing genome-wide association studies and accelerate new discoveries.
Brian Henderson, distinguished professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and holder of the Kenneth T. Norris Jr. Chair in Cancer Prevention, will serve as principal investigator for the project.
“The overarching goal is to discover the pathways that drive prostate cancer development and to assess their role in clinical decision making,” Henderson said.
Henderson and his colleague Christopher Haiman, associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, have been searching for potential genetic markers of prostate cancer within the African American, Latino and Japanese populations of the Multiethnic Cohort Study.
The program will be comprised of three integrated projects:
� The first aims to take advantage of existing genome-wide association studies of prostate cancer in European, African American, Latino and Japanese populations to discover new risk variants that may be associated with advanced disease and that contribute to ethnic differences in disease risk.
� The second is focused on understanding the genes and biological mechanisms that the risk variants are acting through. Hypotheses will be systematically explored using a variety of established and emerging techniques.
� The third will investigate the genetic basis of cancer susceptibility through gene-to-gene and gene-to-environment interactions, with a goal of providing new treatments and cancer prevention strategies.
Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer worldwide among men. Incidence rates are characterized by wide variation among racial and ethnic populations. For the past 15 years, Henderson — in collaboration with the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii — has headed the Multiethnic Cohort Study to evaluate genetic susceptibility to breast, prostate, colorectal and other cancers.
“We’ve come a long way in a short time. Until about five years ago, we knew essentially nothing about prostate cancer’s cause,” Henderson said. “Now we have identified regions in the genome where there is clear evidence of areas that influence prostate cancer risk. With this new research collaboration, we hope to move to the next step and look at how we can apply information to treatment and prevention to have a real impact on the disease.”
The institutions involved in the project are USC, Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Cambridge, The Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Marsden Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Columbia University, New York University, Duke University, Children’s Hospital Boston, the University of California, San Francisco, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum.
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