Prostate cancer research gets a boost

Prostate cancer, once it spreads to lymph nodes and bones, generally is not curable. But basic and clinical researchers at Providence are working on this challenge.

In 2010, Brendan Curti, M.D., a medical oncologist and researcher at Providence Cancer Center received a Prostate Cancer Foundation Creativity Award for $300,000 to support a clinical research study in men with advanced prostate cancer.

The study involves treatment with anti-OX40, an immune-stimulating antibody discovered at the cancer center, along with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. PCF is the leading private foundation funding peer-reviewed research into prostate cancer. Out of 157 applications from 92 institutions, just 12 projects with the potential to deliver game-changing results were funded by PCF in 2010.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation also funded a three-year Young Investigator grant for William L. Redmond, Ph.D., at the cancer center.

“The clinical trial builds on exciting findings in animal models and our earlier, phase 1 study that showed the immune systems of men with prostate cancer could be boosted with anti-OX40,” Dr. Curti says. “Because Dr. Andrew Weinberg, a basic scientist at the center, has been at the forefront of defining the influence of OX40 in the human immune response, our center is uniquely positioned to advance cancer treatments based on this substance.”

Marka Crittenden, M.D., Ph.D., director of translational radiation research, and Dr. Weinberg are collaborating on the project. They have shown that chemotherapy and radiation given just before anti-OX40 can boost immune responses by releasing proteins from the cancer that OX40 cells can use as targets for attack.

“We have a small, but very innovative program here,” Dr. Curti says. Providence's prostate cancer research also has been supported by the Kuni Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

“There is still much work to be done in prostate cancer," Dr. Curti adds, "but the cancer center is poised to advance innovative immunotherapy treatments for that and other advanced cancers.”