The PCF’s Young Investigator awards are inspired by Donald S. Coffey, PhD, prostate cancer research director at Johns Hopkins for 40 years. He has mentored more than 50 scientists and physician-scientists and trained more than 30 of today’s leading prostate cancer researchers. These awards provide career and project support for young (generally 35 and under), proven investigators who have already achieved junior faculty positions and are committing their lives to the field of prostate cancer.
The PCF Young Investigator Award-Class of 2008 recipients are:
The 2008 Goergen Foundation – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Armstrong earned a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University, an MD degree from the University of Virginia and an MS in Clinical Investigation from Johns Hopkins University. He completed a Medical Oncology Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Surgery at Duke University.
Dr. Armstrong’s program focuses on discovering biomarkers that will identify patients with prostate cancer who are at higher risk for a more aggressive clinical progression of the disease. Molecular markers to predict metastasis will be studied on circulating tumor cells – the small proportion of prostate cancer cells that “break away” from the primary cancer and enter blood circulation. Patients presenting these markers might be treated aggressively at an earlier stage of disease.
Daniel George, MD, and Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD, will be mentors for Dr. Armstrong. Dr. George is a genitourinary medical oncologist who leads clinical research in prostate cancer at Duke. Dr. Garcia-Blanco is an RNA biologist whose laboratory is investigating the mechanisms by which prostate cancer cells adapt over time and develop the capacity to metastasize, or spread through the body.
The 2008 Michael Milken Scholar – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Arredouani earned a BS Degree in Biology from Moulay Ismail University in Morocco, an MS in Molecular Biology from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in Russia, and an MS and PhD degrees in Medical Sciences from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. He is currently an instructor in Surgery at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Immunization of patients to generate an immune response to eliminate cancer is an increasingly important therapeutic strategy for advanced prostate cancer. Dr. Arredouani proposes to develop a new generation of prostate cancer vaccines with molecules known to be involved in the malignant transformation of prostate cells. Two such molecules have been selected and will be tested.
Martin Sanda, MD, an eminent urologic oncologist and cancer research leader in urology at Harvard, will mentor Dr. Arredouani.
The 2008 Susan and James Blair – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Attard earned an MD degree from the University of Malta and a PhD degree from the Institute of Cancer Research, London. He is currently a Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute for Cancer Research.
Inhibition of CYP17 by abiraterone has promising anti-tumor activity in advanced prostate cancer. This experimental medication blocks the production of the gasoline that fuels cancerous tumor growth. Nonetheless, 50 percent of chemotherapy-treated patients do not respond to abiraterone from the outset, and the majority of patients eventually develop acquired resistance. Circulating tumor cells, the small number of cells that break away from a solid mass and enter blood circulation, will be studied to identify a biomarker profile that predicts which patients might be sensitive to abiraterone and those that might become resistant.
Professor Johann de Bono, MD, PhD, a preeminent medical oncologist at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and a leader in prostate cancer clinical trials, will be Dr. Attard’s mentor.
Dr. Bismar earned an MD degree from the University of Damascus and then performed two fellowships in surgical and genitourinary pathology at Wayne State University and Harvard Medical School-Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is currently an Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Calgary.
A specific fusion of pieces of two chromosomes is present in 50 percent of prostate cancers and is thought to drive the disease. In addition, a normal protein named PTEN suppresses tumor development unless genetically altered as is the case in many advanced prostate cancer cases. Dr. Bismar proposes to study both of these changes in model systems in an attempt to discover how together they deregulate the control of growth and survival that result in prostate cancer.
Peter Forsyth, MD, an accomplished physician-scientist in molecular biology, will provide mentorship for Dr. Bismar.
The 2008 Peter and Laurie Grauer – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Cho earned a BS degree in Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins University and an MD degree from NYU School of Medicine. He completed a Fellowship in PET Imaging at Johns Hopkins University and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
New methods to image prostate cancer at the microscopic level are urgently needed. Prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is expressed on the surface of prostate cancer and represents a promising target for prostate cancer PET imaging. Lower molecular weight small molecule PET radiotracers should improve solid tumor detection. A novel small molecule radiotracer PET imaging agent has been developed to target PSMA with higher PET imaging resolution. In this proposal, Dr. Cho will begin to characterize this PET tracer in prostate cancer clinical trials for the objective of monitoring tumor volume changes during experimental treatment.
Martin Pomper, MD, PhD, an eminent radiologist who specializes in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging of cancer at Johns Hopkins, will provide mentorship.
The 2008 Joy and Jerry Monkarsh Family Foundation – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Choudhury earned a BA in Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University and both an MD and PhD from Columbia University. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School and his clinical fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The Broad Institute at Harvard.
Dr. Choudhury is investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying the transition from androgen-dependent to androgen-independent growth in human prostate cancer. He is currently studying several promising candidate genes that were identified through a cDNA library screen. The goal of Dr. Choudhury’s work is to discover new therapeutic targets for patients with castrate resistant prostate cancer.
Dr. William Hahn is Dr. Choudhury’s research mentor. Dr. Hahn is a premier physician scientist and a recipient of the competitive PCF Challenge Award. This award funds a multidisciplinary team focused on discovering inhibitors of the common prostate cancer gene fusion, TMPRSS2:ERG.
The 2008 Kovler Family Foundation – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Dehm completed a BS and PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan and has been a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Don Tindall at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Tindall is a leading expert on the function of the androgen receptor. Dr. Dehm is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota.
In the event that surgery or radiation does not curtail prostate cancer, locally recurrent or metastatic disease may be treated via a systemic blockade of the production or action of androgens. This so-called androgen ablation therapy specifically inhibits the androgen receptor (AR), a receptor that drives the proliferation and survival of prostate cancer. However, androgen ablation is not curative, and prostate cancer can invariably progress. Novel modes of AR inhibition are needed to study advanced prostate cancer. The goal of this proposal is to create models that reflect how AR continues to cause proliferation and survival of prostate cancer even after androgen synthesis and activity are blocked.
Dr. Dehm’s mentors at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota will be Kenneth Koeneman, MD, a urology specialist, and James McCarthy, PhD, who focuses on prostate cancer tumor biology and leads the Tumor Biology and Progression Research Program at the cancer center.
The 2008 Gen-Probe Incorporated – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Efsathiou earned both MD and PhD degrees at the University of Athens and is currently a medical oncology fellow at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
New experimental medications that shut off androgen (the fuel for prostate cancer) synthesis will likely become a standard of care for advanced prostate cancer in the next few years. The goal of Dr. Efstathiou’s program is to measure androgen levels in the area of prostate cancer bone metastases to determine if androgens are undetectable, as is the case in tumor tissue from other sites, when total androgen suppressive medications are administered. It is thought that these studies will help determine which patients could benefit from or be resistant to these new medications.
Christopher Logothetis, MD will provide mentorship. Dr. Logothetis is a prostate cancer medical oncologist and heads the David H. Koch Prostate Cancer Center at MD Anderson. Dr. Logothetis has a long record of developing the careers of young investigators who have gone on to make important contributions to the field.
The 2008 Michael and Lori Milken – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Feldman earned a BA degree in the Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA degree from Boston University School of Medicine, an MD degree from the University of Massachusetts, and he is currently earning his MPH degree at Harvard School of Public Health. He completed training in urologic oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and is currently an Assistant Professor of Urology and Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Novel biomarkers for improved detection and prognosis of prostate cancer are needed. Intracellular, membrane-associated and secreted proteins are differentially expressed by prostate cancer cells as compared to benign prostate cells. Dr. Feldman proposes to discover these differentially expressed proteins in urine, a non-invasive practical biological fluid for biomarker discovery. The second goal of this project is to correlate biomarker findings with prostate cancer diagnosis, grade and pathologic stage.
Matthew Smith, MD, PhD, of the MGH Cancer Center, is a world leader in prostate cancer clinical investigations for bone stability and improved survivorship in patients on hormonal therapy, and Bruce Zetter, PhD, a world-leading cancer biologist at Harvard Medical School, will serve as Dr. Feldman’s co-mentors.
The 2008 Earle I. Mack – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Frank earned his certification in Nuclear Engineering from the United States Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program and an MD degree from Emory University. He completed a Fellowship in Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center and is currently an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Following prostate cancer treatment, men are often embarrassed if they become incontinent. Recent data reveals that up to 33 percent of men or approximately 73,000 men annually will be wearing diapers or pads for up to two years following their treatment. The goal of Dr. Frank’s proposal is to eliminate incontinence by 2012 for men treated with brachytherapy through MRI image-guided radiation therapy. With accurate dose determination, cancer cure rates will increase and side effects will decrease translating into an improvement in quality of life following prostate cancer treatment.
David Swanson, MD, will provide mentorship. He has a record of more than 32 years as a scholar at MD Anderson and has helped develop the careers of dozens of now well-established investigators.
The 2008 Neubauer Family Foundation – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Guzzo earned a BS in Biology from Ursinus College and an MD from Temple University School of Medicine. He is currently a Urologic Oncology Fellow and clinical instructor at Johns Hopkins.
Dr. Guzzo is a urologist completing his fellowship program at Johns Hopkins. He is also a Neubauer Family-PCF Young Investigator at the University of Pennsylvaniawhere he will be creating a prostate cancer translational research unit within the urology division. Dr. Guzzo will focus on clinical outcomes to improve surgical results for men diagnosed with early prostate cancer that include novel approaches to reducing morbidity from surgery.
Dr. Guzzo will be mentored by Alan Wein, MD. Dr. Wein is head of the Division of Urology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Chief of Urology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the editor of the leading textbook in urology.
The 2008 Lynda and Stewart Resnick – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Harui earned a BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of Kobegakuin in Kobe, Japan and her MSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Osaka. She earned her PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences/Immunology, from University of Osaka and theUniversity of California, Los Angeles. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Cancer Gene Therapy at UCLA.
Dr. Harui’s work is focused on developing a therapeutic prostate cancer vaccine that will promote a patient’s natural immunity to destroy tumor cells. Dr. Harui is combining two approaches. The first uses immune system growth factors to increase the number and function of important immune cells (dendritic cells). A second approach uses a common cold virus, called adenovirus, as a gene delivery tool to re-program patient immune cells to specifically target prostate cancer cells. To accomplish this work, Dr. Harui is developing a novel “humanized” mouse model to test her new anti-cancer, cold virus-like vaccine. She has generated a new mouse strain that contains only human immune cells isolated from individual patients. These mice are then implanted with a patient’s prostate cancer cells. This model system will enable Dr. Harui to study how a patient’s immune system interacts with the growing prostate cancer and whether her new vaccine promotes the immune system to attack the cancer cells.
Michael D. Roth, MD, Professor, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, Interdepartmental Program in Molecular Toxicology at the University of California, Los Angeles will be Dr. Harui’s mentor.
The 2008 DeFeo Family – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Harzstark earned a BS degree in Biological Sciences and an MD degree from Stanford University. She is currently a Fellow in Hematology and Oncology at UCSF.
Immunotherapy offers the potential to stimulate a prostate cancer patient’s immune response to kill a growing tumor. Unfortunately, cancer cells are very weak vaccine agents and require other co-therapeutic strategies to be effective. Dr. Harzstark proposes to enhance the immune response to prostate cancer with a variety of approaches that might result in elimination of tumors.
Dr. Eric Small will serve as mentor. He is a leader and frequently published expert in the field of prostate cancer immunotherapy clinical investigation, the research area upon which Dr. Harzstark will focus.
The 2008 Meister Family – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Holt earned a BA in Biology from Skidmore College, an MS in Public Health from the University of Colorado and a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Washington. She is currently a Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Carcinogenic effects of estrogen on the prostate have been demonstrated in laboratory models. Furthermore, there is a current resurgence of interest in using synthetic estrogens to treat patients with advanced prostate cancer. Dr. Holt plans to study genetic alterations in genes responsible for estrogen sensitivity and metabolism in the prostate of approximately 1,457 prostate cancer patients compared to 1,351 control subjects without prostate cancer. Results should help identify patients with increased risk for primary prostate cancer and those who might develop a more aggressive form of the disease.
Dr. Janet Stanford, an internationally-recognized prostate cancer geneticist and population scientist, will provide mentorship.
The 2008 Joy and Jerry Monkarsh Family Foundation – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Jain earned her BS in Zoology at Dehli University and her MS in Biotechnology at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She completed her PhD at the National Institute of Immunology, Jawaharlal Nehru University and did two post-doctoral fellowships at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Prostate cancer progresses from an androgen (male hormones) dependent disease to a hormone independent, lethal stage. This transformation is in part supported by the surrounding microenvironment (stromal cells, neuronal cells, immune cells, blood vessels growth factors and other proteins that neighbor the tumor) because cancer cells can “re-wire” healthy cells to promote cancer cell growth and survival.
Like the tumor, the microenvironment is directly affected by therapeutic agents. Dr. Jain is investigating the mechanisms of EGFR-TKI (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor- Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor: drugs designed to block the cancer cell proliferation signal induced by the protein EGFR) resistance in prostate cancers. In a recent publication she reported that prostate cancer cells generate their own stromal cells (supportive cells that nourish and supplement the tumor) in response to EGFR-TKIs. Her findings suggest that this process may be one method of treatment resistance and indicate the intimate relationship between the tumor and the microenvironment. Dr. Jain also showed that there may be secreted factors (molecules that bathe cells) released from the stromal cells that promote EGFR-TKI resistance.
Dr. Jain’s work is advancing our understanding of therapy resistance and will propel the development of new treatment strategies for prostate cancer that overcome the challenges of resistance.
Dr. David Agus, Director of Research at Cedars-Sinai, is Dr. Jain’s mentor.
The 2008 Lynda and Stewart Resnick – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Memarzadeh earned her BS in Neuroscience and her MD from the University of Pittsburgh. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA. She did her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA as well as completed a Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship at UCLA. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA.
Dr. Memarzadeh’s project aim is to determine the role of androgen receptor (AR) signaling in the initiation of prostate cancer. AR is a protein that is stimulated by androgens, such as testosterone, and drives the proliferation and survival of prostate cancer cells. She previously demonstrated that signaling by stromal fibroblast growth factor 10 (FGF10; released by stromal cells which form the tissue surrounding prostate cancer) leads an increase AR levels in prostate cells. Her findings reveal that growth factors such as FGF10 can control the AR signaling “dial” in prostate cells indicating that elevated AR signaling may be a mechanism responsible for the initiation of prostate cancer. Dr. Memerzadeh’s work will lead to a better understanding of prostate cancer etiology and may provide new insights on disease prevention, early diagnosis and early treatment options.
Dr. Memarzadeh’s mentor is Owen Witte, MD, Director of the Eli and Edyth Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, Distinguished Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, President’s Chair in Developmental Immunology, Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology David Geffen School of Medicine, at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr. Mucci earned a BS in Biology at Tufts University, an MPH in Epidemiology from Boston University, and an ScD in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Medicine and Epidemiology at The Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
A recent finding in prostate cancer biology is the existence of specific fusions of chromosomes in disparate regions of a patient’s genome. These fusions give rise to expression of molecules with strong cancer-causing properties. Emerging data suggest men with tumors that lack the fusion have an improved prognosis compared to men with fusion-positive prostate cancer. This scientist will study 1,500 prostate cancer patients to understand the relationship of the gene fusions to hormonal balance, energy balance, and healthy weight. The impact of these physiological properties on patient survival will be determined.
Dr. Mucci will be co-mentored by Philip Kantoff, MD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) and Meir Stampfer, MD, MPH (Harvard School of Public Health). Drs. Kantoff and Stampfer are among the most frequently cited prostate cancer researchers in the world for high-impact contributions.
The 2008 William L. Edwards – PCF Young Investigator Award (first and second year)
The 2008 David Epstein – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Pomerantz earned a BS degree in American Studies from Yale University and an MD degree from Stanford University. He completed Medical Oncology Fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and is currently an Instructor in Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
During the past two years, genomic scans have identified the genetic basis of prostate cancer risk. In his project, Dr. Pomerantz will perform research to determine the molecular basis of increased prostate cancer risk in individuals that possess the genomic alterations. Understanding these mechanisms of risk may lead to new targets to inhibit the progression of prostate cancer.
Philip Kantoff, MD an expert translational and clinical prostate cancer researcher and leader of the NCI’s prostate cancer Special Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) at Harvard, and Matthew Freedman, MD, an experienced genomics researcher, will co-mentor Dr. Pomerantz.
The 2008 Durden Foundation – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Raj earned a BS degree in Biology from Johns Hopkins University and an MD degree from Jefferson Medical College. He trained in urologic oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and is currently an Assistant Professor of Urology at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
The androgen receptor (AR) system plays a central role in prostate cancer and represents a critical target for novel drugs in the treatment for this disease. Targeting specific genes is now possible, but the delivery of these new inhibitors to their targets is difficult. The focus of Dr. Raj’s proposal is to refine a system that will be both an MR imaging agent and a drug delivery vehicle for gene-targeted inhibitors. Specific gene targets are the AR and AR-associated molecules.
Jer-Tsong Hsieh, PhD, a leader in human prostate cancer molecular biology and a professor of urology at UT Southwestern, will provide mentorship for Dr. Raj.
The 2008 Thomas H. Lee – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Redmond earned a BS in Biology from the University of California – Davis and a PhD in immunology from the Scripps Research Institute. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Providence Portland Medical Center.
Recent clinical trials have demonstrated that immunotherapy-based treatments hold promise for prostate cancer therapy, including tumor-specific vaccines and immuno-enhancing agents. Dr. Redmond proposes to further enhance cancer vaccine therapy by the discovery and development of new classes of immunostimulators.
His mentor, Dr. Andrew Weinberg, is a leading human tumor immunologist with a strong track record of mentoring young biomedical researchers towards independent careers.
The 2008 PCF Young Investigator Award – Anonymous Donor
Dr. Sharifi earned a BS in Biology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and an MD from the University of Pittsburgh. Following Internal Medicine training at Yale University, Dr. Sharifi copleted a Fellowship in Medical Oncology at the NCI. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Metastatic prostate cancer is treated with androgen deprivation therapy that reduces testosterone, the “gasoline” that fuels the growth and progression of prostate cancer. Despite frequent responses, tumors almost always recur with subsequent activation of the androgen receptor (AR), the target for testosterone. Therefore, therapies that down-regulate AR using novel mechanisms, have a tremendous potential to introduce new treatments and improve the outlook for prostate cancer patients. The first objective of this proposal is to determine if the down regulation of certain anti-oxidants will over-activate AR function. The second objective of this proposal is to use a novel method to find better tumor markers that herald prostate cancer progression in state of poor anti-oxidation.
Dr. Sharifi will be mentored by Thomas Kodadek, PhD, chief of the division of translational medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He is an eminent biochemist who has made significant contributions to fundamental cancer research.
The 2008 LeFrak Family – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Tagawa earned a BS in Biology from Georgetown University and an MD degree from USC where he completed a Fellowship in Hematology and Oncology. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Urology at the Weill Cornell Medical College.
J591 is a monoclonal antibody against prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA), a molecule on the surface of prostate cancer cells. Studies using J591 linked to radioisotopes (radioimmunotherapy, RIT) have demonstrated safety and efficacy as well as the ability to target known sites of disease in metastatic prostate cancer. Dr. Tagawa will continue clinical investigations of J591 in patients with advanced prostate cancer to determine the dosage and optimal administration schedule required to effectively treat the disease.
Neil Bander, MD, a world leader in urologic oncology translational research and inventor of the J591 monoclonal antibody, and David Nanus, MD, professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and internationally recognized leader in the treatment and care of patients with all types of genitourinary cancers, will provide mentorship.
2007 The Safeway Foundation – PCF Young Investigator Award
Dr. Tomlins earned a BA in Biology, from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Pathology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is currently in his last year of the MD/PhD program at the University of Michigan Medical School. He will begin his residency in Pathology at the University of Michigan in July of 2009.
Specific chromosomal rearrangements in more than half of prostate cancers, using a novel analysis of DNA microarray data, were identified in 2005. These rearrangements result in the fusion of two genes that are normally located on separate chromosomes. These gene fusions become rational targets for prostate cancer therapy and also can be used for diagnosis. Dr. Tomlins proposes to work on developing tests for the early diagnosis of prostate cancer using these gene fusions as well as characterizing additional dysregulated genes in prostate cancer.
Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD, an eminent professor of pathology and urology who specializes in molecular profiling of cancer at the University of Michigan Medical School, will provide mentorship for Dr. Tomlins.