Discovery-Grant-Twitter-English_newFourteen forward-thinking Canadian prostate cancer research teams have been rewarded for their innovation with Movember Discovery Grants, funded by the Movember Foundation through Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC). The winners were selected based on novel research projects that have the potential to make a significant difference in a number of areas across the spectrum of prostate cancer research. Each grant is worth up to $200,000.

“While we continue to make important strides along the more well-established avenues in prostate cancer research, we must also continue to explore novel approaches”, explained Dr. Stuart Edmonds, PCC Vice President of Research, Health Promotion and Survivorship. “With this new funding, we are generating new knowledge with the aim of uncovering new hope for the one in eight Canadian men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.”

“The Canadian prostate cancer research community has made a significant global contribution to recent advances in prostate cancer treatment and care. Despite these advances, much work still remains to effectively distinguish between harmless and lethal prostate cancer, and stop the progression of the disease. Through the Movember Discovery Grant program, we are confident that the novel approaches taken in these projects will make an important contribution over the coming years,” said Paul Villanti, Executive Director Programs at the Movember Foundation.

Working out of a number of institutions across the country, this year’s recipients and their teams are collectively covering a breadth of areas, including new diagnostic biomarkers, treatment targets, and economic analyses. McGill-related recipients include:

Michel Tremblay, McGill University, Montréal

The development of prostate cancer is a complex process that is highly influenced by hormones such as androgens, and, therefore, therapy focuses greatly on androgen deprivation. Despite this, many advanced cancers develop that no longer rely on hormones for their growth. Dr. Tremblay’s team will explore new ways of detecting and treating high-risk androgen-dependent cancers before they become androgen-independent. They will examine a series of co-amplified cancer-causing genes that are present and are controlled by androgens in prostate cancer. Based on these findings, Dr. Tremblay’s team will work to determine whether these genetic mutations can identify whether a cancer will be aggressive, and they may also provide the basis for a new target in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.

Jian Hui Wu, Jewish General Hospital, Montréal 

Immunotherapy has emerged as a therapeutic option for prostate cancer patients, whereby the immune system is stimulated to fight the prostate cancer cells. Dr. Wu and his team propose to develop new chemical compounds that can bring about this powerful immune response. STING is a protein structure that has already proven to bring about an aggressive anti-tumor response, and Dr. Wu’s team hopes to be able to promote this response in human patients. Currently, compounds that activate STING in mice are shown to have a dramatic antitumor effect, but the particular compound being used cannot activate human STING. Dr. Wu and his team will work to develop compounds to activate human STING and translate the findings from mice to men.

Alice Dragomir & Armen Aprikian, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal

Drs. Dragomir and Aprikian and their team will perform a comprehensive cost-effectiveness analysis of a number of new tests that have shown clinical promise in the areas of screening, diagnosis or treatment of prostate cancer, but are not routinely used in clinics either in Canada or abroad due to a lack of evidence around cost-effectiveness. By creating evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of interventions, the team aims to inform decision-making and help increase access to new advances in prostate cancer detection and treatment. It is expected that the results of this study will improve clinical decisions, healthcare optimization, influence health policy decisions, as well as increase patient empowerment.

Ivan Topisirovic, Jewish General Hospital, Montréal

The communication between cells located in two compartments of the prostate – the epithelium and the stroma – is important for its normal function, but can also influence the development and spread of prostate cancer. It is thought that this communication is, in part, why some men have aggressive cancers that progress quickly, and why some do not. To better understand the process of cancer development, in collaboration with a team of international experts (Drs. Hutmacher, Furic and Larsson), Dr. Topisirovic has designed an ‘artificial prostate’ to help understand how prostate compartments communicate, and to design tools to monitor and control this communication. This information could help us know when to postpone radical treatments in cases that are less aggressive, and may also help to block the communication to improve existing treatments in cases of advanced prostate cancer.