NEWS | August 5, 2016

UC Davis scientists awarded $1 million grant for prostate cancer research


The Prostate Cancer Foundation and Movember, the global charity that has raised hundreds of millions for men’s health research and programs, have delivered $1 million to UC Davis prostate cancer researchers.

Hongwu Chen Hongwu Chen

The funding will allow UC Davis basic scientist Hongwu Chen of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Christopher Evans, professor and chair of the Department of Urology and their colleagues to further develop a novel approach to overcome treatment-resistant prostate cancer. The project builds on the researchers’ recent finding that a receptor protein called RORgamma can be an important prostate cancer driver, and that small molecules targeting the ROR protein can effectively block tumor growth and circumvent drug resistance in preclinical models such as cell lines and in human tumors in mice.

The team plans to develop highly potent and selective small molecule inhibitors of the RORgamma receptor, test their anti-tumor efficacy and evaluate their safety in different models as well as their pharmacokinetics properties. They will also develop assays to detect the alteration of RORgamma gene and its proteins in the tumor, with the goal of providing biomarkers/assays to assist future clinical trials targeting the ROR in advance prostate cancers.

“This is the first time that a nuclear receptor protein is found to regulate the androgen receptor, which is also a nuclear receptor and the main mechanism driving prostate cancer,” said Evans. “Most therapies presently in use directly target the androgen receptor and eventually suffer from tumor resistance. This ‘first in field approach’ has the potential to avoid some of these resistance mechanisms.”

The grant was one of five Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Awards announced this week. All of the multidisciplinary research teams awarded grants are working to tackle advanced prostate cancer.

Chen, a scientific member of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the funding from Movember and the Prostate Cancer Foundation “is critical in bridging the gap between the initial scientific findings and translating them to the clinic to help our patients.”

The Prostate Cancer Foundation funds and accelerates prostate cancer research, having raised more than $660 million and provided funding to more than 2,000 research programs across the country. Since 2007, the Movember Foundation has contributed approximately $44 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to advance discoveries to provide permanent remissions for men with advanced prostate cancer.