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USC study follows the progression of prostate cancer

The MAO-A structure will be examined by University Professor Jean Shih and her team of investigators.

Through pioneering research on the monoamine oxidase-A enzyme (MAO-A) conducted by University Professor Jean Shih, it is already known that this particular gene plays a role in depression, autism, aggression and other mental illnesses. Now, Shih and her co-investigators are examining the role MAO-A plays in the progression of prostate cancer.

A new study is being funded by a three-year, $579,499 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense through its Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP), which aims to promote innovative research focused on eradicating prostate cancer and funds “high risk-high impact” research that is geared toward developing treatments for the disease.

The investigators have already shown that increased MAO-A is associated with prostate cancer progression. Conversely, they’ve shown that the inhibition or silencing of MAO-A significantly reduces the growth of prostate cancer.

“The objective of this study is to determine the functional role of MAO-A in human prostate cancer progression and metastasis, and to evaluate the effectiveness of novel MAO-A inhibitors to target prostate cancer cells, with the promise of preventing and eradicating prostate cancer growth,” explained Shih, who holds the Boyd P. and Elsie D. Welin Professorship in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Because MAO-A inhibitors are successfully being used to treat other diseases linked to this enzyme, such as depression, Shih believes the right inhibitors can treat prostate cancer growth and eventually eliminate the cancer all together.

The funding will be used to investigate the role of MAO-A action in prostate cancer growth and progression. Specifically, the researchers will study whether combining a drug currently on the market with new MAO-A inhibitor compounds will reduce the progression and metastasis.

“Since MAO-A inhibitors are already used to treat depression, we can expedite the testing of our hypothesis,” Shih said.

Using optical imaging, the scientists will follow an infrared drug dye as it moves through the hose and within the tumors — a step that will help to monitor a tumor’s growth.

“Our goal is to translate research findings into the clinic,” Shih said. “Ultimately, our aim is to reduce or eliminate the suffering and death attributed to prostate cancer.”

Co-investigators on the project are USC Assistant Professor Bogdan Olenyuk, and Professor Haiyen Zhu and postdoctoral fellow Boyang Jason Wu of the Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

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