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BIDMC scientists receive Challenge Awards from Prostate Cancer Foundation

BOSTON Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) researchers Martin Sanda, MD, and Steven Balk MD, PhD, have been awarded Challenge Awards of $1 million each from the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) to lead two cross-disciplinary teams of investigators in their pursuit of new treatments for patients with advanced prostate cancer. The PCF Challenge Awards will support a total of 10 scientific projects nationwide; BIDMC is the only institution to receive funding for two projects.

Said PCF executive vice president and chief science officer Howard Soule, PhD, "With reductions in federal funding for prostate cancer research, it's imperative for the PCF to seek the most promising research ideas and fund them with the goal of changing clinical practice and improving outcomes for patients with advanced prostate cancer."

The research team assembled by Sanda, Director of the Prostate Cancer Program at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Surgery/Urology at Harvard Medical School, is combining nanotechnology and cancer immunology expertise in developing a vaccine to treat prostate cancer by boosting patients' immune systems.

"Recent progress has shown that cancer vaccines extend survival for men with prostate cancer and this type of treatment has now been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," explains Sanda. "However, this first-generation prostate cancer vaccine is exceedingly expensive, and the cumbersome processing of individual patient cells limits availability. Our strategy, which makes use of biodegradable nanoparticles to directly deliver prostate-cancer proteins to the body's requisite immune cells, will stimulate the immune system to directly attack prostate-cancer cells and, therefore, has the potential to be less expensive and more easily disseminated."

Sanda's Prostate Cancer Nanoparticle Vaccine Consortium is co-led by M. Simon Arredouani, PhD, of BIDMC's Department of Surgery; Joseph DeSimone, PhD, of the University of North Carolina Department of Chemistry, and Charles Drake, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmell Cancer Center.

"Our work represents a synergistic collaboration that brings together some of the best doctors and scientists in the fields of prostate cancer, nanotechnology, and cancer immunotherapy across three separate leading hospitals," adds Sanda. "Such collaborative team science is the cornerstone for continued progress in developing effective new cancer therapies."

In the second of BIDMC's PCF Challenge Awards, a scientific team led by Steven Balk, MD, PhD, an investigator in BIDMC's Division of Hematology/Oncology and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, will work on research to identify and exploit mechanisms of response and resistance to therapeutics directed at the androgen receptor pathway.

"We hope to learn why patients invariably become resistant to Abiraterone acetate, a treatment used in advanced prostate-cancer cases following chemotherapy," says Balk. "If we can determine the reasons why this treatment eventually stops working, we will be better equipped to design more effective and targeted therapy for metastatic treatment-resistant disease, the lethal stage of prostate cancer responsible for approximately 30,000 deaths per year."


Contact: Bonnie Prescott
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

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