UCI receives major grant to develop 'gene signature' for prostate cancer prognosis

December 13, 2005

A UC Irvine pathologist who studies cancer cells has received a five-year, $9.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a genetic method for predicting the outcome of prostate cancer at the time of diagnosis. It is one of the 10 largest research grants in UCI history.

Dr. Dan Mercola, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in the School of Medicine, will lead a multi-institute collaboration, which will include researchers from the departments of pathology and urology at UCI.

The goal of the new study is to develop a "gene signature" of prostate cancer for newly diagnosed patients based on a tumor biopsy or blood examination. This signature will let patients know if they have an aggressive form of cancer -- allowing them to better understand their disease and make crucial decisions for appropriate early stage treatment. As part of the study, Mercola will organize a prospective clinical trial at UCI.

"We are aiming to meet a critical unmet need in prostate cancer treatment," Mercola said. "Up to 30 percent of men with prostate cancer do not need radical treatments like radiation or surgery, and this test will allow us to determine who these people are."

Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy among men in the U.S. It may be either aggressive, which poses severe risks to the patient and requires radical treatment, or indolent, requiring only conservative medical management. However, it currently is not possible to tell patients which form of cancer they have.

In previous work, Mercola and his colleagues have developed methods for determining cell-specific gene expression of four major cell groups within prostate carcinoma, and they have identified more than 3,200 genes that are uniformly expressed in at least one of these cell types.

Physicians and researchers from UC San Diego; the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in San Diego; the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.; Northwestern University; the Translation Genomic Institute of Phoenix and Sun City Health Institute in Sun City, Ariz., also are involved with the project.

The UCI grant is one of six the National Cancer Institute awarded nationwide to collaborative research groups to explore how information derived from comprehensive molecular analyses can be used to impact the care of cancer patients and ultimately improve outcomes. For more information, see www.cancer.gov.
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About the University of California, Irvine: Celebrating 40 years of innovation, the University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,400 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

Contact:
Tom Vasich
949-824-6455
tmvasich@uci.edu

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University of California - Irvine

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