Developing Effective Therapies for Men with Late-Stage Prostate Cancer

Gao Vang

Prostate cancer is a leading cause of male cancer death in the U.S. One of the major challenges in the field of prostate cancer research is the development of resistance to hormonal therapies. When the disease progresses to this stage, it is referred to as castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). CRPC accounts for nearly all prostate cancer (PC) mortality, and is the reason why PC is the second-leading cause of male cancer death.

R. Stephanie Huang, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, and Scott Dehm, PhD, professor and Apogee Enterprises Chair in Cancer Research in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, are collaborating to develop effective therapies for men with CRPC. In 2019, they were awarded an OACA Faculty Research Development Grant, which supports new or expanding interdisciplinary research that addresses significant clinical issues, is innovative, and has a high potential for return on investment.

“Our long term goal is to identify drugs that could be used to treat CRPC patients, and subsequently reduce disease associated mortality,” said Huang.

The Dehm lab has been a pioneer in defining how hormone therapies work, and stop working, including the development of many novel laboratory models that reflect clinically-relevant mechanisms of therapeutic resistance. The Huang lab has developed a new computational method that accurately predicts cancer patients’ response to a variety of drugs using their tumor gene expression. For the past three years, they combined their complementary expertise to tackle the problem of the lack of therapeutic options for men with CRPC. Specifically, by applying Huang’s computational drug sensitivity prediction to various CRPC cell models and patient cohorts available in the Dehm lab, they have identified a number of promising drugs and have subsequently confirmed the effectiveness of the top leads in CRPC cells. Work is ongoing to test these drugs in animal models. 

“What’s unique about our labs pairing up is that we have an unbiased approach to nominate existing drugs that could be used to treat prostate cancer,” said Dehm. The Dehm lab evaluated drugs identified by Huang’s lab to test whether they display preferential killing activity in CRPC.

Huang added, “The OACA Faculty Research Development Grant was the perfect fit. The level of exchange to create this collaboration has been critically important. I can see many years to come for our teamwork to do really innovative work.”


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