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Dr. Russell Taichman receives $1 million grant for cancer research

Dr. Russell Taichman

Ann Arbor, Mich. Aug. 2, 2016 –- A School of Dentistry professor has received a $1 million grant to further his research into prostate cancer.

Dr. Russell Taichman, professor and Associate Dean for Research, and his team are one of five awards announced today by the Prostate Cancer Foundation after it received $5.3 million from the Movember Foundation, a global charity focused on men’s health.

The multi-year, team science awards include Taichman’s research into “Mechanisms of Prostate Cancer Relapse in Marrow.” Prostate cancer cells are able to live in bone marrow and develop into lethal bone metastases.  Using the emerging cancer model Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) in concert with mammalian tumor models, the team will identify evolutionarily conserved genes critical for the growth and survival of disseminated prostate cancer cells in bone.  This will lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets for advanced prostate cancer patients.

“The latest discoveries in prostate cancer genetics have brought us closer than ever to a cure, but there is far more work to be done in the realm of advanced, aggressive prostate cancers,” said Jonathan W. Simons, MD, president and chief executive officer of PCF. “These five teams exemplify how a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary for realizing critical results. We are grateful for our partnership with the Movember Foundation and their commitment to saving the lives of all men with this disease.”

The $5.3 million received by the PCF was from the 2015 U.S. campaign of the Movember Foundation, which raises funds to deliver innovative, breakthrough research and support programs that enable men to live happier, healthier and longer lives.  Successful applications were selected following a rigorous peer-review, with priority given to high-risk, currently unfunded projects.

"The Movember Foundation is honored to continue our commitment to raising awareness and funding breakthrough prostate cancer research with our valued partners at PCF,” said Mark Hedstrom, senior vice president of Global Operations for the Movember Foundation. “The five new Challenge Award recipients are well-deserved and truly represent measurable actions in changing the face of men’s health.”

The other four teams receiving $1 million Movember Foundation-PCF Challenge Awards for 2016 are:

• “Pharmacogenetic Dissection of Protein Synthesis Control across the Spectrum of PI3K Pathway Mutations in Prostate Cancer,” led by Andrew Hsieh, MD, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash. This team is working on strategies to target the cancer-promoting PI3K pathway, which is frequently mutated in treatment-resistant prostate cancer.  Investigation of these mutations will help determine how they affect responses to various PI3K pathway-targeting agents in order to develop biomarkers that will match patients with optimal therapies.

• “Development and Qualification of the PCF SELECT (Specific Evaluation in Liquid biopsies of Established prostate Cancer Targets) Plasma DNA Assay,” led by Gerhardt Attard, MD, PhD, at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, England, and Himisha Beltran, MD, at Weill Cornell Medical College. The team is developing a novel genomics sequencing test capable of identifying actionable mutations from a simple blood sample. The test will allow clinicians to make precision medicine treatment decisions at every treatment change without requiring invasive biopsies.

• “Targeting ROR-gamma with Novel Therapeutics for Lethal Prostate Cancer,”  led by Hongwu Chen, PhD, at the University of California, Davis. This team is working to optimize a new therapy that targets ROR-gamma, a partner of the androgen receptor (AR), the primary driver of prostate cancer. This therapy has exhibited potent anti-tumor effects in preclinical models largely through inhibiting the activity of AR.  The team will select a promising therapeutic candidate for entry into clinical trials.

• “Integrated Identification and Molecular Evaluation of Disseminated Tumor Cells and their Microenvironment,” led by Kenneth Pienta, MD, at Johns Hopkins University.  The team is utilizing novel single cell biotechnologies to study dormant tumor cells that reside in the bone marrow of prostate cancer patients and may eventually reactivate and develop into metastases. The team will develop methods to identify dormant tumor cells with lethal potential, utilize these cells as biomarkers for identifying patients at high risk for recurrence, and credential genomic analyses of dormant tumor cells for guiding precision medicine decisions for men with advanced prostate cancer.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the world's leading philanthropic organization funding and accelerating prostate cancer research. Founded in 1993, PCF has raised more than $660 million and provided funding to more than 2,000 research programs at more than 200 cancer centers and universities. The PCF global research enterprise now extends to 19 countries. PCF advocates for greater awareness of prostate cancer and more efficient investment of governmental research funds for transformational cancer research.

The Movember Foundation has been recognized for its fun, disruptive approach to fundraising and getting men to take action for their health. During November, called “Movember” by the organization, men are challenged to grow a moustache, and men and women can make a physical activity commitment or host a fundraising event. Millions have joined the movement, raising $710 million and funding over 1,000 programs focused on prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide prevention.


About the School of Dentistry
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia, and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: