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Prostate Cancer Foundation Announces Young Investigator Award Recipients

November 30, 2011

The Prostate Cancer Foundation announced the addition of 24 new Young Investigators to its 2011 class, three of which are from Johns Hopkins.  The Young Investigator awards are designed to encourage the most innovative minds in cancer research to focus their careers on prostate cancer. 

Each Young Investigator recipient is awarded a grant of $225,000 over a three-year period, which will be used for transformational research focused on prostate cancer treatments and patients. Funding is also matched dollar-for-dollar by each recipient’s research institution to protect time or to bridge salary support prior to a first government grant, making the total award worth $450,000.

A total of 148 applicants applied for PCF Young Investigator funding, representing 90 institutions across 10 countries. More than 70 global professionals reviewed these applications, which addressed 29 specialized scientific areas within prostate cancer research. The recipients from Johns Hopkins are:

Michael Haffner, M.D.
Mentor: Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian, M.D., Ph.D.
The 2011 Richard and Ellen Sandler – PCF Young Investigator Award

Genomic rearrangements that lead to the juxtaposition of two non-neighbor genes, such as TMPRSS2 and ERG, are some of the most common alterations in prostate cancer. The origin of these rearrangements remains unclear. There is growing evidence to suggest a new model for the generation of these genomic rearrangements that requires stimulation of normal prostate cells with androgens, resulting in the formation of breaks in the DNA? recruitment of the DNA break-repair machinery ?imperfect DNA repair that allows two unrelated genes to fuse together and promote cancer progression. Dr. Haffner is evaluating the roles of TOP2B and the DNA damage/repair pathways in cancer progression which may result in a new strategy for therapeutically targeting advanced prostate cancer. In the second part of his research, he will exploit AR-signaling associated DNA breaks for therapeutic targeting in the setting of advanced prostate cancer.

Corinne Joshu, Ph.D.
Mentors: Elizabeth Platz, ScD and Angelo DeMarzo, M.D., Ph.D.
The 2011 PCF Young Investigator Award

Dr. Joshu and colleagues previously observed that men who gained weight circa the time of prostatectomy were twice as likely to recur as compared with men who maintained their weight. The biological mechanism underlying this association remains unclear. To assess this association, Dr. Joshu is evaluating two novel predictors of prostate cancer risk and prognosis: telomere length and inflammation. Dr. Joshu will evaluate whether weight gain and obesity are associated with 1) variable telomere length in cancer cells among patients surgically treated for clinically localized prostate cancer; and 2) the extent of inflammation present in benign and malignant prostate tissue among patients surgically treated for clinically localized PCa. This work may ultimately provide physicians and men with prostate cancer with a strategy to reduce risk of prostate cancer recurrence by avoiding or intervening on weight gain.

Tamara Lotan, M.D.
Mentors: Angelo DeMarzo, M.D., Ph.D. and Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D.
The 2011 Elaine Wynn – PCF Young Investigator Award

PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homologue on chromosome 10) is a tumor suppressor that is commonly lost in several cancers. Loss of PTEN is one of the most common molecular aberrations in prostate cancer and is frequently associated with high-risk disease. Routine and accurate identification PTEN inactivation may potentially serve as a prognostic biomarker in prostate cancer and might also help select appropriate treatment for patients. Dr. Lotan has developed a sensitive assay to detect PTEN loss in prostate cancer. This test will assist pathologists in identifying early, potentially aggressive prostate cancer, the results of which will inform decisions on personalizing therapy.  

Since 2007, PCF has invested more than $16.5 million in Young Investigator grants.


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