UW Health: UW researchers win $2.8 million grant to improve prostate cancer tests

CONTACT: Susan Lampert Smith

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MADISON, Wis. – A group of UW Carbone Cancer Center researchers has won a $2.8 million federal grant to develop a better method for determining which prostate cancers are likely to metastasize and spread.

Dr. Hirak Basu, senior scientist at the center, hopes to use his lab’s earlier discovery of a biochemical pathway that makes prostate cancer more virulent, to predict which tumors are more likely to spread. His collaborators are Dr. Dave Beebe, professor of biomedical engineering, and Kevin Ellicieri, the director of the optical and computational instrumentation laboratory in biomedical engineering.

“Right now, there is no widely accepted method to distinguish between aggressive and indolent prostate cancers,” Basu explains. “This leads to over-treatment of men whose tumors may never spread.”

Earlier, Basu’s lab in collaboration with Dr. George Wilding’s laboratory described the pathway through which androgen, the male sex hormone, creates harmful chemicals called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which appear to set off prostate cancer progression. Cancer cells with high levels of ROS may escape from the prostate into the blood and lymph systems and metastasize in distant organs such as bone.

The four-year study will assay sections of prostate tumors obtained from surgically removed prostate tissues from patients for microscopic markers related to the aggressive form of cells and then correlate the results with patient outcome data that will reveal which of the men had aggressive tumors and which had indolent cancers.

“Our goal is to be able to standardize a special microscopic observation method of prostate tissue biopsies to reliably predict which prostate cancers have a high potential for metastasis, and require aggressive treatment such as surgery or radiation,” Basu says.