UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center program triumphs

October 15, 2000

UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center basic scientists and clinical researchers have received a highly coveted grant from the National Cancer Institute that they say will fuel their ongoing mission to methodically and aggressively move in on prostate cancer.

The $11.9 million five-year grant, with an additional $12 million in matching funds raised by an advocacy group led by Andy Grove, co-founder and chairman of Intel Corp., is designed to drive a cross pollination of ideas between some of the world's leading basic scientists and clinical researchers to improve prostate cancer treatment, early detection and prevention. First year funding is $2.3 million.

The so-called SPORE grant, for Specialized Program of Research Excellence, is unique, as most major basic science grants do not include funding for clinical research. The grant was awarded to UCSF in recognition of the breadth and depth of the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center's basic science and clinical research programs and its ability to integrate these programs for clinical advance.

"Our goal with this SPORE is to take a fresh approach to trying to solve the significant problems in prostate cancer research," says Marc A. Shuman, MD, professor of medicine and director of the new UCSF Prostate SPORE. "We intentionally sought out outstanding basic scientists who, while not already studying this disease were interested in changing a significant part of their effort to work on these problems, and would make a commitment to working closely with prostate cancer clinicians and clinical scientists.

"Scientists can do great things when they work on a project on their own, but the most successful strategy for disease-related research is the team approach, where you integrate successful people representing different specialties," says Shuman. And the outcome to such cross pollination is more than additive, he says. "There's a synergism."

The decision to apply for a prostate SPORE grew out of a prostate cancer program that was committed to a multi-disciplinary effort from the beginning, says the co-principal investigator of the prostate SPORE, Peter Carroll, MD, UCSF professor and chair of the department of urology. "The SPORE builds on our efforts, supporting our commitment to bringing together talented clinicians, scientists and advocates from various fields who can share their expertise on one very important problem."

The NCI has awarded only 23 SPORE grants since the inception of the funding mechanism in 1992. The grant includes an opportunity for a competitive renewal after five years. Joe W. Gray, PhD, UCSF professor of laboratory medicine and radiation oncology, leads a breast cancer SPORE, now in its eighth year of funding.

The UCSF prostate SPORE supports six programs, which include an investigation of why some prostate cancers resist therapies aimed at reducing the growth-promoting effects of testosterone on tumors; a study of whether genetically engineered viruses can be used to combat prostate cancer; a project to develop novel engineered antibodies to fight cancer; and research on an antibody that stimulates an immune-system response against prostate cancer. The programs also include an investigation of which genes contribute to prostate cancer and a study of genes that confer susceptibility to prostate cancer or to virulence of tumors in humans.

The SPORE also includes six core resource programs: administrative; tissue; informatics; advocacy; clinical research and animal technology.

The goal of each research program is to enrich the flow of information between basic scientists and clinical researchers. Shuman, who treats patients with prostate cancer, will participate in the lab meetings of Alan Balmain, PhD, UCSF professor of biochemistry, who is working to identify genes in mice that confer susceptibility or resistance to cancer, and genes that determine a cancer's virulence. The expectation is that Balmain will eventually identify the equivalent genes in humans, and that Shuman will be able to study the implications of these genes in a clinic he is establishing for people at high risk for prostate cancer based on a strong family history.

Jim Allison, PhD, UCSF clinical professor of medicine, professor of molecular and cell biology, UC Berkeley, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, who has made what Shuman calls "spectacular discoveries" in mice about how the immune response to cancer is regulated, is now working with clinical investigator Eric Small, MD, UCSF associate clinical professor of medicine, whom Shuman calls one of the best oncology clinical researchers in the world. Allison has developed an antibody that activates the immune response in mice. The antibody appears to have a major impact on thwarting prostate cancer in a transgenic animal model. Small has now begun a phase I clinical trial of the antibody in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

"Basic scientists don't know much about some of the really important clinical features of disease, and clinicians don't have the basic science background to do the research that the basic scientists can do," says Carroll. "When you get these two groups working together, which we really do, you're able to make the most progress the most rapidly."

Prostate cancer affects one in six American men, and will claim an estimated 37,000 lives this year. The cost of treatment is high, and there is a lack of consensus regarding the best form of treatment for each stage of the disease. In addition, the causes of prostate cancer are believed to be multiple, including genetic elements, as well as racial, cultural, and environmental factors, such as diet.

The success in receiving the SPORE grant, says Shuman, is due in no small part to the UCSF prostate cancer advocacy group, made up of current and former UCSF prostate cancer patients or family members, and led by Andy Grove, of Intel Corp., and Yahoo! board member Arthur Kern. Grove, a prostate cancer survivor, consulted Carroll during his treatment.

In addition to making personal contributions during the last two years, the advocacy group has raised nearly $12 million in matching funds for the prostate SPORE.

"UCSF's success in receiving the prostate SPORE grant indicates the NIH's [National Institutes of Health's] recognition of the quality and interdisciplinary nature of the research conducted at UCSF. I'm particularly excited about the grant because it is my conviction that diseases are most likely to be cured by collaboration across disciplines, and between scientists and clinicians, which is what SPORES are meant to encourage," Grove says.

"UCSF's success in receiving the prostate SPORE grant indicates a recognition by the NIH [National Institutes of Health] of the quality and interdisciplinary nature of the research conducted at UCSF. I'm particularly excited because it is my conviction that diseases are most likely cured by collaboration across disciplines, and between scientists and clinicians, which is what SPORES are meant to encourage," Grove says.

"The advocates were tremendously helpful in helping us get the grant, because their financial commitment helped convince the NCI how committed we are," says Shuman. "And the business expertise that Art and Andy provide us is fantastic. They contribute an enormous amount of valuable guidance on executive and administrative issues."

Carroll concurs. "Our advocates do more than just raise money -- they helped us to organize our efforts effectively, and to focus on issues that matter most to patients," he says. "Most importantly," he adds, "they give us a real urgency to attack and solve this problem of prostate cancer."

Shuman, too, brings a personal angle to the story. A prostate cancer survivor, he says he has both an academic and personal interest. "I couldn't be more excited," he says. "My goal is to make us the best organ-specific cancer research program in the world."

Research groups at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Alabama at Birmingham were also awarded new SPORE grants.

University of California - San Francisco

Related Prostate Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Low risk of cancer spread on active surveillance for early prostate cancer
Men undergoing active surveillance for prostate cancer have very low rates - one percent or less - of cancer spread (metastases) or death from prostate cancer, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Urology®, an Official Journal of the American Urological Association (AUA).

ESMO 2020: Breast cancer drug set to transform prostate cancer treatment
A drug used to treat breast and ovarian cancer can extend the lives of some men with prostate cancer and should become a new standard treatment for the disease, concludes a major trial which is set to change clinical practice.

Major trial shows breast cancer drug can hit prostate cancer Achilles heel
A drug already licensed for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers is more effective than targeted hormone therapy at keeping cancer in check in some men with advanced prostate cancer, a major clinical trial reports.

The Lancet: Prostate cancer study finds molecular imaging could transform management of patients with aggressive cancer
Results from a randomised controlled trial involving 300 prostate cancer patients find that a molecular imaging technique is more accurate than conventional medical imaging and recommends the scans be introduced into routine clinical practice.

Common genetic defect in prostate cancer inspires path to new anti-cancer drugs
Researchers found that, in prostate cancer, a mutation leading to the loss of one allele of a tumor suppressor gene known as PPP2R2A is enough to worsen a tumor caused by other mutations.

First prostate cancer therapy to target genes delays cancer progression
For the first time, prostate cancer has been treated based on the genetic makeup of the cancer, resulting in delayed disease progression, delayed time to pain progression, and potentially extending lives in patients with advanced, metastatic prostate cancer, reports a large phase 3 trial.

Men taking medications for enlarged prostate face delays in prostate cancer diagnosis
University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that men treated with medications for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) experienced a two-year delay in diagnosis of their prostate cancer and were twice as likely to have advanced disease upon diagnosis.

CNIO researchers confirm links between aggressive prostate cancer and hereditary breast cancer
The study has potential implications for families with members suffering from these types of tumours who are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

Distinguishing fatal prostate cancer from 'manageable' cancer now possible
Scientists at the University of York have found a way of distinguishing between fatal prostate cancer and manageable cancer, which could reduce unnecessary surgeries and radiotherapy.

Researchers find prostate cancer drug byproduct can fuel cancer cells
A genetic anomaly in certain men with prostate cancer may impact their response to common drugs used to treat the disease, according to new research at Cleveland Clinic.

Read More: Prostate Cancer News and Prostate Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.