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Creighton Awarded Defense Department Grants for Prostate Cancer

The Department of Defense (DoD) announced the approval of more than $650,000 in grants to help Creighton University researchers continue their work toward developing an improved treatment approach for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common and second deadliest form of cancer in American men. There are treatments available, but they only go so far. The most prevalent option, a form of hormone therapy called androgen deprivation, is typically short-lived because the cancer progresses to an advanced stage or becomes resistant to treatment.

Yaping Tu, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology, was awarded more than half a million dollars to design a new drug that will block the growth of prostate cancers and keep them from spreading to other parts of the body. He will collaborate with Peter Abel, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology, and Poonam Sharma, M.B.B.S., associate professor of pathology, to expand on previous research, also funded by the DoD, in which he identified two genes at work in the development of prostate cancers.

"Because the Department of Defense only funds about four percent of applicants, they want to make sure we are studying something that has a real-world application," Tu said. "We hope to potentially have a drug to test on advanced prostate cancers in the next three to five years."

Xian-Ming Chen, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, will collaborate with Tu on a second recently-announced DoD grant, worth $108,375. Chen will use the funds to study prostate cancer at the molecular level, specifically why these cancers develop a resistance to androgen deprivation therapy. The goal of his research is to identify more effective targets for future therapeutic interventions.

"The fundamental reason why we can't treat a disease is usually because we don't know how it happens," Chen said. "Our research will generate data that we hope can be used to develop a new therapeutic strategy for prostate cancer."

Creighton will also support a third DoD grant awarded to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for the Nebraska Prostate Cancer Research Program. This grant pays for minority students at historically black colleges and universities to visit the state for training. Researchers, including Tu, mentor the students during their two-month visit.

These grants are part of the DoD's Prostate Cancer Research Program, a congressionally-funded program that supports scientific investigations toward the goal of eliminating death and suffering due to prostate cancer.

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