Provincial Program Leader for Prostate Cancer Research

At the BC Cancer Agency Research Centre, my team and I are researching a new drug compound that we developed called EPI. Currently, we are trying to get the legal authorization to use the drug with patients, and to do this we have to show toxicity levels and other requirements to ensure it is safe. We anticipate starting clinical trials with the drug by the end of this year. Patients do ask where we are at, and we are going to be there in less than twelve months – we really are getting close.

It’s quite an amazing feeling as a scientist to develop a novel drug, it’s a dream actually. Prostate cancer affects one in six men and 25 per cent of those men will have advanced prostate cancer. We have high hopes for the EPI treatment that it will do something big for advanced prostate cancer patients.

We’re hoping that EPI can give doctors and patients another item in their artillery to combat prostate cancer. It’s the first therapy that’s designed for a completely new target. It also shows regression of the tumour and it’s a different mechanism from other treatments so this drug actually stops cancer cells from growing – and can even kill the cells.

Prostate cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death for North American men. Current treatment for these men is to reduce testosterone levels, which is, in essence, castration. This therapy is based on the prostate being dependent on testosterone for growth. A Canadian, Charles Huggins, received the Nobel Prize for this discovery. The problem is that this therapy only works for a short period. After that, the treatments available are extremely poor – maybe adding only a couple of months of survival.

Patients in B.C. and around the world need to know that new drugs are being made available that will hopefully cure or make prostate cancer a chronic rather than a terminal disease. But the work that we are doing and have done is complex and expensive; this is where philanthropic support can really make a difference.

Marianne