Prostate Cancer Foundation Announces Scholar-in-Training Award Winners

Prostate Cancer Foundation Announces Scholar-in-Training Award Winners
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The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) has announced the winners of the Scholar-in-Training Awards — research grants to support young scientists who presented outstanding data in the field of prostate cancer.

Since 1986, more than 4,580 Scholar-in-Training Awards, encompassing 55 research foundations, corporations, and other organizations dedicated to cancer research, have been distributed.

This year the awards, sponsored by the PCF and 17 other organizations, went to three researchers who presented their projects at the 2019 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting, March 29-April 3 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Andi K. Cani, MS, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, presented a mini-symposium titled “Development of a whole-urine, next-generation sequencing-based assay for early detection of aggressive prostate cancer.”

The project is focused on the creation of a diagnostic test based on the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) in urine samples. So far, the urine-based NGS test has shown promising results in pre-clinical models and in a subgroup of patients at different stages of the disease.

The team hopes this new test can complement the classic prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to facilitate the early diagnosis of aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

Zoila Areli Lopez Bujanda, MSc, of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, presented a poster titled “Androgen regulated IL-8 expression in prostate cancer: Insights into tumor cell mediated immunosuppression.”

The project is focused on evaluating the impact of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) — a hormone therapy that aims to slow disease progression by reducing levels of male hormones — on patients’ immune response.

Results in animal models have shown the cytokine (a molecule that mediates and regulates immune and inflammatory response) interleukin-8 (IL-8) is produced excessively after ADT, triggering the recruitment of immune cells to the tumor site that may be involved in the development of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), a type of prostate cancer that keeps growing in the absence of male hormones.

The group hopes these findings can open the door to the development of new approaches that improve responses to checkpoint blockade immunotherapies in prostate cancer.

Naveen Ramesh, MS, from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, presented a poster titled “Plasma genome sequencing identifies prostate cancer patients that are sensitive to platinum-based therapy.”

The project is focused on the development of a genome sequencing method called PEGASUS to distinguish CRPC patients with aggressive variant prostate cancer (AVPC), an aggressive form of CRPC.

Using PEGASUS, the team isolated and processed genome data from 57% of the CRPC patients participating in a clinical trial, demonstrating the feasibility of the method. In addition, genome sequencing identified genetic alterations that were correlated with patients’ overall survival and progression-free survival (the time patients lived without their disease worsening).

The group thinks these findings could set the foundation for the discovery of new disease biomarkers for prostate cancer.

Joana holds a BSc in Biology, a MSc in Evolutionary and Developmental Biology and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal. Her work has been focused on the impact of non-canonical Wnt signaling in the collective behavior of endothelial cells — cells that made up the lining of blood vessels — found in the umbilical cord of newborns.
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Joana holds a BSc in Biology, a MSc in Evolutionary and Developmental Biology and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal. Her work has been focused on the impact of non-canonical Wnt signaling in the collective behavior of endothelial cells — cells that made up the lining of blood vessels — found in the umbilical cord of newborns.
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