Award funds Massey and VIMM research on new prostate cancer therapy

Fisher-head-shot-160x240Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM) researcher Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., has been awarded the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s 2012 A. David Mazzone PCF Challenge Award. Fisher shares this award with Drs. Martin G. Pomper and George Sgouros, both from Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. The Challenge Awards are highly competitive, two-year awards that provide a total of $1 million per team in support of large-scale innovative research projects in the area of prostate cancer. The award will provide VCU $400,000 in direct costs over two years.

Fisher, Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and program co-leader of Cancer Molecular Genetics at Massey, chairman of VCU’s Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine, will serve as one of the project directors, working closely with other investigators on the overall project aims. The team will focus on developing systemically deliverable “theranostic” – combined therapeutic and diagnostic – nanoparticle constructs that will enable simultaneous molecular-genetic imaging and therapy of primary and metastatic prostate cancer. Molecular-genetic imaging essentially is imaging at a molecular level, which allows scientists and doctors to see and monitor things like gene expression and protein functions in cancer cells. In basic terms, the team hopes to develop a new therapy that allows them to monitor and simultaneously destroy primary prostate cancer and its metastases at the molecular level.

The scientists plan to use progression elevated gene-3 (PEG-Prom), a cancer selective gene promoter derived from rodents and first isolated in Fisher’s laboratory, to express a protein known as avidin directly on the surface of the primary and metastatic prostate cancer cells. In addition to being active in cells expressing cancer-promoting genes, the presence of PEG-Prom can also be detected using CT imaging techniques. The team will then use a biotin, or a water-soluble B-vitamin attracted to the avidin, to deliver a dose of radiation directly to the primary and metastatic prostate cancer cells. This novel strategy has high potential for the development of an effective and selective systemic therapy for advanced prostate cancer.

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