Identifying the new “weak spots” in the “soft underbelly” of the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer is the ultimate PCF R+D finding. In 2016, two PCF research teams of over 50 scientists studying a protein called N-Myc, found a major vulnerable new drug target. They found this new weak spot for the neuroendocrine form of prostate cancer (NEPC). Normal cells in the body do not have this weak spot. This lethal, advanced form of NEPC prostate cancer affects up to 25% of men with treatment-resistant disease.

 

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These PCF-funded teams, one led by John Lee, MD (UCLA), and the other by David Rickman, PhD, (Weill Cornell Medicine), discovered that N-Myc regulates the progression of prostate cancer from a typical treatable tumor into a killer disease. N-Myc is a cancer cell growth master “on-switch.” The teams further found that disrupting N-Myc activity — like turning off a light switch — could actually stop cold chemotherapy and hormone resistant prostate cancers. This new drug research can help not just prostate cancer patients but N-Myc also drives some other human cancers – especially neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that can be devastating in children.

While not yet ready for the clinic, these results collectively provide the basis for a new anti-N-Myc precision treatment strategy for men with NEPC. This could serve as an alternative to chemotherapy with its attendant side effects. PCF is hoping to fast forward anti N-Myc R+D in 2017 as a priority for both adult and childhood cancers.

Story #4

Optimizing Existing Therapies: making current drugs work better for patients

 

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Terms to know from this article:

Progression

Increase in the size of a tumor or spread of cancer in the body.

Hormone

A chemical made by glands in the body. Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of certain cells or organs. Some hormones can also be made in a laboratory.

Tumor

A mass of excess tissue that results from abnormal cell division. Tumors perform no useful body function. They may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).