About prostate cancer

Prostate cancer remains the most common cancer amongst Canadian men. And while initial treatments for prostate cancer are usually successful and five-year survival rates relatively good, the disease can progress to a lethal form of the disease, known as metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) for which current drug treatments are ineffective. Early detection and new treatment options are needed for men with this aggressive type of the disease.

Supporting research in the lab

Foundation donors have enabled BC Cancer Agency researchers to accelerate some very promising discoveries. In particular, is the work of Distinguished Scientist Dr. Marianne Sadar and Dr. Kim Chi, a BC Cancer Foundation Clinical Investigator.

Several years ago Dr. Marianne Sadar and her colleagues began screening thousands of compounds initially derived from sea sponges that had the potential to control prostate tumour growth. Twenty-six compounds with the most promise were identified.  

Dr. Sadar and her team were able to focus on the development of small molecule drugs for advanced prostate cancer that were directed at the area that enables prostate cancer to grow.

As a result of this intensive work, it was announced last year that a prostate cancer drug, developed by researchers at the BC Cancer Agency and the University of British Columbia, is entering human clinical trials.

Phase 1 Clinical Trials

Over a decade in the making, the drug, EPI-506, is the first to target the ‘back end’ of the androgen receptor protein, called the N-terminal domain. Current drug therapies for advanced prostate cancer aim at the opposite end of the androgen receptor, away from the N-terminal domain. While initially effective in slowing tumour growth, these therapies eventually fail.

This discovery gives promise that those with the most aggressive from of prostrate cancer can be treated.

Dr. Sadar and her colleagues are now commencing a Phase 1 clinical trial to determine the safety and potential therapeutic benefits of EPI-506. The study is expected to include approximately 150 patients from Canada and the United States.

Personalized medicine key to improved outcomes

For decades, clinicians have sought a quick, effective, non-invasive method to determine the underlying cause of a person’s cancer, knowledge which would enable the best treatments to be selected and started quickly and with a greater chance for success.

By creating a precision medicine program matching targeted therapies to patients with the most aggressive form of prostate cancer, based on abnormalities found in their DNA, medical oncologist Dr. Kim Chi and his colleagues will be able to provide new, immediate solutions for prostate cancer patients in B.C. and beyond.

Dr. Chi’s work will impact the health of thousands of men by offering the potential of personalized care now. By profiling individual patients’ cancers through standard surgical biopsies and “liquid biopsies” (a minimally invasive technique involving cancer DNA found in the blood), Dr. Chi and his collaborators will be able to direct patients to the most suitable therapy as part of a trial.

 

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