B.Sc. (Biophysics & Microbiology), University of Pittsburgh, 1974
Ph.D. (Biophysics & Microbiology), University of Chicago, 1980
Senior Research Scientist, Vancouver Prostate Centre
Professor, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia
Dr. Ralph Buttyan is a Senior Research Scientist in the Vancouver Prostate Centre and has been involved in prostate cancer research for over 28 years. He recently joined the Prostate Centre from New York, USA, where he was Professor in Pathology and Urology at Columbia University and a Senior Scientist at the Ordway Research Institute.
His research interest lies in understanding the molecular and genetic changes that enable prostate cancer cells to acquire resistance to androgen ablation (hormone) and other types of therapies. These therapies are commonly used to deplete male steroids in patients when the prostate cancer has metastasized outside of the prostate. His past research included pioneering studies of the “cell suicide” process referred to as apoptosis, and he showed that genes that block this process become active as the prostate tumor develops therapy resistance. He was among the first to show the profound and early detrimental effects of androgen ablation on blood vessels that feed and oxygenate a prostate tumor. This work established hormone therapy as the earliest form of anti-angiogenic therapy used and it may provide clues as how to better use anti-angiogenic therapies for prostate cancer patients. His research was among the first to show the presence of circulating cancer cells in the bloods of prostate cancer patients and to attempt to use this criteria as a marker of future relapse after therapy.
More recently, his focus has turned to the role of developmental signaling pathways in therapeutic resistant of prostate cancer. This new work provides evidence that the cell signaling pathways that guide normal embryonic development of the prostate gland are hijacked in prostate cancer cells and become linked to the processes that drive abnormal growth of the cancer cells and their ability to metastasize to other tissues of the body. These abnormal embryonic signals appear to be also especially important for the acquisition of therapy resistance by prostate cancer. One benefit of this observation is the availability of modern drugs that selectively inhibit these developmental pathways and they will be used in pre-clinical testing in advanced prostate cancer model systems to determine their potential efficacy against advanced disease.
Ralph is a Past President of the Society for Basic Urological Research and he served on several Editorial Boards of scientific journals and numerous scientific review panels and prostate cancer study groups for the National Institutes of Health of the US. Additionally, he served as an external member of the Canadian Prostate Cancer Research Initiative that boosted research on prostate cancer in Canada. His move to the Prostate Centre will enable him to use the advanced instrumentation and Core facilities here to more rapidly advance his studies and give him the opportunity to interact and collaborate with the other notable faculty of the Prostate Centre.