PCF Initiates China Research Program
Read more at the WSJ Blog here
For pictures of PCF's visit to China, please visit our Facebook photo album
Read the full Prostate Cancer Foundation press release here
March 12, 2012 -- The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) launched a new research initiative in China, partnering with the Chinese Urological Association, in an effort to promote and fund prostate cancer research. The program, which launched during the week of March 5-9, 2012, included the announcement of the first-ever Chinese Young Investigators Yuxi Zhang, MD, PhD (The First Hospital of China Medical University) and Shancheng Ren, MD, PhD (Shanghai Changhai Hospital).
The China initiative has a goal of understanding the research behind the spike in Chinese related prostate cancer diagnoses, including the development of treatments or therapies that includes traditional Chinese medicine with Western techniques to treat the disease. The Prostate Cancer Foundation is also working closely with the Beijing Genomic Institute (www.genomics.cn) to understand the genomics behind a prostate cancer diagnosis. As with all of its funded research across the globe, the PCF China program carries the ultimate goal of ending death and suffering from prostate cancer.
The 2012 PCF China Young Investigator Award recipients are sponsored anonymously by a long-time PCF donor and are:
Shancheng Ren, MD, PhD
Shanghai Changhai Hospital
Mentor: Yinghao Sun, MD, PhD
Gene fusions are the erroneous juxtaposition of two genes that do not normally lie next to each other on the genome. As a result of this abnormal placement of two genes, their expression is altered and this may lead to the development and progression of cancer. The TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusions are a hallmark of prostate cancer (PCa), found in ~50% of Caucasian patients. Recent studies have shown that these TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusions occur at a much lower frequency of ~15-20% in prostate cancer patients in China. The underlying genetic heterogeneity/differences among different ethnic populations may explain this observation.
Dr. Shancheng Ren has identified a novel gene fusion in prostate cancer patients in China that results in to the juxtaposition of the SDK1 and the AMACR genes. Dr. Ren proposes to study the relative prevalence and clinical significance of this SDK1-AMACR gene fusion in Chinese PCa patients. Dr. Ren also proposes to investigate the SDK1-AMACR gene fusion as a novel, non-invasive marker for the detection of prostate cancer in Chinese patients.
Dr. Ren and team recently published a paper in Cell Research, describing the role of specific gene fusions in Chinese patients. Read the published paper.
Yuxi Zhang, MD, PhD
The First Hospital of China Medical University
Mentor: Chuize Kong, MD, PhD
Male hormones (androgens) fuel prostate cancer progression and the first line of treatment is Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT). Unfortunately, most prostate cancer patients ultimately become resistant to ADT. This stage of prostate cancer is termed castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and heralds metastasis and an increased risk for death. Researchers recently identified prostate cancer-specific stem cells (PrCSC) that are proposed to play a major role in the development of treatment resistance and progression of prostate cancer. Studies of PrCSCs have shown that these cells are capable of self-renewal, possess enhanced tumor-initiating capabilities, do not rely on androgens for growth and survival and are therefore more resistant to treatment than other cancerous cells. In a previous study, Dr. Zhang has identified a sub-population of PrCSCs that increase in numbers upon treatment with ADT. He observed that this specific sub-population of stem cells decreased when the castration-resistant tumors were treated with androgens and a different PrCSC subset became more prominent in the tumors.
Dr. Zhang proposes to study prostate cancer-specific stem cells that lead to the development of disease progression and treatment-resistance. These studies will help in the identification of potential drug targets that prevent CRPC development.
Young Investigator awards in China include a three-year grant, totaled at $37,500 per year. The Prostate Cancer Foundation funds 91 Young Investigators, spanning seven countries and 44 research institutes—a $20.25 million investment.
“PCF-supported Young Investigators have changed the scope of prostate cancer research, advancing treatment sciences and improving the lives of patients worldwide,” said Howard Soule, PhD, chief science officer and executive vice president of PCF. “Our expansion to fund investigators in China will help accelerate our mission of responding to the ever-changing research landscape and to fund high-risk, high-reward programs that facilitate data sharing and deliver better patient outcomes.”
For a full list of 2012 Young Investigator award recipients, please visit: www.pcf.org/young-investigators/2012