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February 1, 2011

UVa Cancer Team Wins Competitive Award to Find Prostate Cancer Treatment

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UVa Cancer Center Director Michael Weber, Ph.D., and his team of researchers have won a $100,000 grant to further their work toward a treatment for prostate cancer.

The funding is a 2006 Competitive Award from the California-based Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF).

Dr. Weber and his team are investigating molecular therapies that will need to be combined with other targeted therapies and/or with therapies that are cytotoxic (toxic to cells, like chemotherapy).

“We’re excited to have continued funding from the Prostate Cancer Foundation so that we can pursue several pathways that hold promise to fighting prostate cancer tumors,” Dr. Weber said. “These cancer treatments must be combined because cancer cells often have more than one way to compensate and can overcome the toxic effects of a single treatment.”

Weber and colleagues are proposing a laboratory-made screening approach to identify these compensatory pathways, using an array of inhibitor molecules that the team has assembled to fight tumor cells. This screening approach will be used along with other means of inhibiting tumor cell activity and other analyses to identify molecular targets that will allow a rational development of combination therapies for prostate cancer.

Last year, Weber and his team also won a $100,000 Competitive Grant from the PCF. During the past year with that funding, the team pursued three lines of investigation to identify pathways that might be useful to compensate cell inhibition.

“When federal cancer research budgets are actually going down for the first time in memory, having continuous funding from organizations like the Prostate Cancer Foundation is critical to the discoveries that will someday help patients battle this prevalent form of cancer,” Weber said.  Prostate cancer is the most common cancer, excluding skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. In particular, African American men have had higher incidence and at least double the mortality rates compared to men of other racial and ethnic groups.

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