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Prostate Cancer Foundation Funds New Interdisciplinary Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Prostate Cancer Foundation said it has awarded $3 million to fund three new interdisciplinary research projects that will use genetics and genomics approaches to discover and develop treatments for prostate cancer.

Awarded as part of a round of $9 million in new funds for research projects called the Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Awards program, these studies were selected from 96 applications from researchers in 10 countries. The awards are aimed at supporting projects that have not yet been funded by government or foundations, and they represent a wide range of research approaches.

PCF Executive VP and Chief Science Officer Howard Soule said in a statement on Tuesday that the Challenge Awards "bridge the gap of reductions in federal funding for prostate cancer research, allowing the most promising research ideas to still be funded, with a goal of changing clinical practice and improving outcomes for patients with advanced disease."

One of the projects, led by University College London Professor Charles Swanton, will use deep genome sequencing to study heterogeneity within tumors to inform personalized treatment regimens. The partners in the project will sequence multiple biopsies from primary and metastatic tumors from patient cohorts with high-grade tumors, aiming to understand what drives heterogeneity and metastatic disease.

Another effort, led by Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in Norwich, UK, will study global gene expression and metabolite profiles from biopsies to find out if consumption of sulforaphane in broccoli may help prevent the progression of prostate cancer.

Men who have diets that are rich in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, have been shown to have a lower chance of developing prostate cancer, or of progressing from localized to aggressive cancer, according to IFR. This study will examine changes in the gene expression and metabolism in prostate tissue of men who are at risk of developing the disease and will monitor how these changes are affected by eating a diet rich in sulforaphane.

Massimo Loda, a professor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, plans to use the new funding to identify aggressive disease-specific markers that will be used to stratify patients and new drug targets. The researchers seek to identify cellular pathways in the stromal-epithelial microenvironment that are associated with the progression to invasive disease, based on gene expression and regulatory RNA expression. They hope to identify markers that will be targetable by drugs that are currently available.

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