Science Market Update

Washington Life Science Consortium Advances Prostate Cancer Research

Posted by Dylan Fitzwater on Tue, Aug 14, 2012

The Washington-based Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) is a cutting-edge life science consortium which includes several research centers throughout Washington State and British Columbia. The consortium focuses on the genetic mechanisms of prostate cancer to better develop effective treatments for the disease.

The consortium was created in 2002 when the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, awarded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center a $12.7 million grant to establish a multi-center life science consortium dedicated to understanding and curing prostate cancer. 

The participating Seattle institutions were the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Institute for Systems Biology. The Vancouver participants were the University of British Columbia and the affiliated Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital.

In 2006, principal investigator Dr. Peter Nelson, of the Fred Hutchinson Center’s Division of Human Biology, along with Co-Principal Investigators Paul Lange, Chair of Urology at the UW School of Medicine, and Janet L. Stanford, Head of Fred Hutchinson’s Public Health Sciences Program in Prostate Cancer Research, sought to renew the SPORE funding. They submitted a
renewal application to the NIH to continue the program and were awarded an $11.8 million grant which continues to fund the program through this year.

The institutions currently participating in the program are the founding institutions (the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of Washington, and the Vancouver Prostate Centre) in addition to a new partner, the Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute

With this latest $11.6 million infusion of funding, the Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE has made several significant discoveries in the field of prostate cancer research. For example, Nelson's research team has begun to identify specific genetic biomarkers that may predict whether a prostate tumor will spread aggressively or lie dormant. This research could significantly effect a physicians' ability to predict the behavior of the disease in order to prescribe appropriate treatment.

Nelson's research will allow physicians to answer a question which has plagued prostate cancer therapies, as Nelson put it: "Does a man have the kind of cancer that is lethal versus the kind of cancer where you say, 'Well, we found a cancer, but you don't need to worry about this?'" Answering this question will determine whether it is necessary for the patient to endure the unpleasant side effects of prostate cancer treatment, and ultimately make the process easier for the patient (you can read more about this research here).

Another recent research project undertaken by the Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE involved a significant discovery in the area of chemotherapy resistance. Nelson and his colleagues discovered that when fibroblasts, a noncancerous cell that can be found near tumors, are exposed to chemotherapy they emit a specific protein which actually changes the tumors microenvironment and makes it much easier for the tumor to grow and spread.

The researchers found that Chemotherapy causes genetic damage in fibroblasts making them pump out the harmful protein, called WNT 16B, and allowing the cancer to resist chemotherapy and invade healthy cells. The discovery suggests that a mechanism which inhibits the production of WNT could stop this unfortunate product of chemotherapy and prevent a cancer from becoming resistant to chemotherapy.

The study relied heavily on data from clinical trials and prostate cancer patient databases. Nelson summed up the significance of this type of research, “This study is an example of collaborative, translational research that capitalizes on years of federally funded investments into the development of tissue banks and clinical trials in which we were able to track long-term patient outcomes. Investing in this type of infrastructure is critical but may take many years to see payoff.” (you can read more about this research here).

These are of course just a few of the research projects undertaken by The Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE. The Washington life science consortium continues to engage with exciting research into the causes and effects of prostate cancer, and hopes to advance the study of the disease closer to an effective cure. 

Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will be hosting events on the campuses of two Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE partners, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. Our trade show style events focus on building research partnerships between scientists and the science equipment industry. For more information click on the links below:

For more information on Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in particular, including more NIH funding statistics and grant summaries, click on the button below:

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Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a full service event marketing and planning company producing on-campus, life science research tradeshows nationwide for the past 20 years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the best research campuses across the country.


Tags: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW, University of Washington, WA research, 2012, Washington Life Science, washington life science consortium, BioResearch Product Faire Event, Front Line event, NIH, Seattle, research grant

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