Wistar Scientist Awarded Mary L. Smith Charitable Lead Trust Grant For Study Of Prostate Cancer Marker

July 02, 1998

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. -- Wistar Institute scientist, George C. Prendergast, Ph.D., has been awarded a $50,000 one-year grant to support his study of Bin1, a newly discovered molecule that may be a reliable indicator of malignant prostate cancer. Announcement of the award was made by Frances R. Pemberton, Trust Administrator for the Mary L. Smith Charitable Lead Trust.

Enlarged prostates and modest PSA elevations, common to men entering their 60s, do not always indicate malignancies. And, because no reliable predictive indicators of malignant prostate cancer are currently known, doctors have no way of distinguishing between low and high risk cases. Consequently, even when biopsy results show the presence of cancer, the treatment most often prescribed is watchful waiting.

Recently, however, scientists working in Dr. Prendergast's laboratory identified a new molecule, Bin1, that appears to be a marker for malignant prostate cancer.

Bin1 interacts with and limits the malignant potential of Myc, a protein found frequently in prostate cancers. Myc is particularly interesting to scientists because, along with appearing to promote tumor growth, it also seems able, under the influence of Bin1, to trigger cell suicide. A universal feature of malignant cells is an inability to commit suicide like normal cells.

Dr. Prendergast's research suggests that altered forms of Bin1, which have lost their killing ability, accumulate in malignant, but not in normal, prostate cells. Consequently, a dense presence of Bin1 suggests a malignancy requiring immediate treatment.

According to Dr. Giovanni Rovera, Director of The Wistar Institute, Dr. Prendergast's findings "have the potential to revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of malignant cancers, and we are very optimistic."

The Wistar Institute, established in 1892, was the first independent medical research facility in the country. For more than 100 years, Wistar scientists have been making history and improving world health through their development of vaccines for diseases that include rabies, German measles, infantile gastroenteritis (rotavirus), and cytomegalovirus; discovery of molecules like interleukin-12, which are helping the immune system fight bacteria, parasites, viruses and cancer; and location of genes that contribute to the development of diseases like breast, lung and prostate cancer. Wistar is a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center.

The Wistar Institute

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