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Safeway Inc. and PCF to fund landmark prostate cancer research collaboration

WASHINGTON, DC -- Safeway Inc. and the Prostate Cancer Foundation today announced they will collectively donate $6 million to fund the S.T.A.R. Program (for Special Team Amplification of Research), an innovative research initiative focused on exploring the role of targeted heat in cancer therapy to treat prostate cancer, as well as other research strategies.

The S.T.A.R. Program is being launched for the first phase of research and development with a $3 million grant from the Safeway Foundation which raised the funds from its customers with donations made at checkout. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) developed the collaborative research partnership and matched the initial funds dollar-for-dollar, for a total $6 million commitment. PCF is the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer research and has funded ten of the individual scientists making up the S.T.A.R. North American team.

The program brings together an interdisciplinary team of investigators from multiple prominent cancer research centers. The team consists of investigators from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (program lead and coordinator), the University of Michigan Cancer Center and the University of British Columbia.

Additional expertise will be leveraged through the Prostate Cancer Foundation from the University of Washington, and from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Emory University. This unique program will bring expertise throughout the cancer research and treatment communities to focus on a new approach to prostate cancer treatment. Similar to the program that Robert Goddard put in place to make space flight a reality, everyone that has input will be invited to the table to be part of the solution, noted Jonathan Simons, M.D., CEO and President of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

"The S.T.A.R. Program is evidence of what can happen when you link the fundraising power of a major company like Safeway with the research vision of the Prostate Cancer Foundation," emphasized Simons. "This program would not have happened without Safeway and its long-standing commitment to helping find a cure for prostate cancer. We are literally turning up the heat on metastatic prostate cancer research." Prostate cancer strikes more than 218,000 men each year making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. It also is one of the most deadly cancers, with more than 27,000 men dying each year from the disease, making it second only to lung cancer as a leading cause of cancer deaths in men.

"Supporting this kind of innovative research has become a trademark of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the principle reason Safeway developed a relationship with the organization more than seven years ago," said Safeway Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Burd. "We are pleased and honored to be associated with the S.T.A.R. Program initiative and what promises to be pioneering work by some of the world's top cancer researchers," Mr. Burd said.

In another innovative effort, the S.T.A.R. Program will convene a "think tank" of some 70 experts in different areas of oncology from across the nation to explore the question of why current therapies cure some types of cancer but not others. The learnings from this effort will give direction to future research on prostate cancer and other types of common solid tumors that are currently the most difficult to treat.

"We are grateful to the leadership of Safeway and the Prostate Cancer Foundation for this special effort," said Robert Getzenberg, Ph.D., Director of Research, Brady Urological Institute, Johns Hopkins. "This unique approach and highly interactive team will develop these new concepts and extend them from the laboratory through testing in clinical trials to the patient setting," Getzenberg said.

The theory that heat can be used to help kill cancer cells comes from an observation and review of scientific evidence by cancer researchers at Johns Hopkins that testicular cancer patients, like seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, have much higher rates of survival than others with different kinds of advanced cancer. Testicular cancer begins in the testes, which are a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body. The structural machinery of cancer cells spreading outside the testes may be altered by the higher body temperatures, making them more susceptible to standard chemotherapy treatments than other cancer types.

While heat therapy is in limited experimental use, researchers believe the key to an effective treatment may be selectively heating cancer cells, which can also prevent damage in adjacent healthy tissues. The goal, note S.T.A.R. team members, is to find out the best way to deliver heat directly to cancer cells. To do so, some of the S.T.A.R. Program researchers will investigate the use of nanoparticles that are attracted to specific proteins carried by cancer cells. Once the nanoparticle locates this specific protein, it can enter the cancer cell, heating it from the inside out after exposure to a magnetic field. The S.T.A.R. Program team will look at this and other mechanisms for targeted heat delivery systems to cancer cells.

In addition to Dr. Getzenberg at Johns Hopkins, the research team for the S.T.A.R. Program includes:

  • Theodore L. DeWeese, M.D., Professor and Department Chairman of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore)
  • Donald Coffey, Ph.D., Professor of Urology, Oncology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore)
  • Kenneth Pienta, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Surgery, and Director of the NCI Research Center in Prostate Cancer at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
  • Martin Gleave, M.D., Professor of Urology, Director of Clinical and Translational Research, The Prostate Centre, University of British Columbia (Vancouver)


Contact: Ashley Prime
Safeway Inc.

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