Prostate Cancer Awareness Week - Vancouver Prostate Centre takes revolutionary approach to drug discovery

Date Posted: 


Monday September 17, 2012

Vancouver, BC – Researchers at the Vancouver Prostate Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC are undertaking a revolutionary approach to find new drug therapies and molecular targets that will help prostate cancer patients who have become resistant to treatment.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect Canadian men: one in seven will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. While over 90% of cases can be cured if detected and treated in their earliest stages, rates of treatment-resistant prostate cancer are on the rise.

Current prostate cancer therapies work by blocking androgen receptors (AR), which determine how the prostate regulates hormones, thereby delaying the progression of the cancer. Unfortunately, over time, cancer cells are able to resist the treatment in most men and new options must be applied.

A research team in the Vancouver Prostate Centre’s research arm, called PC-TRIADD, is using a “virtual 3D approach” to rapidly search through millions of compounds, in order to create new treatments that can overcome this drug-resistance problem.

The technique, described as much “art as science,” is a new field of genomics called computational chemogenomics. The research team takes potential therapies and applies rapid computerized simulation protocols which can theoretically determine whether or not it will be a successful treatment. Therapies that don’t work are immediately discarded, and those that show promise proceed to a wet lab setting.

In addition to identifying potential drugs treatments, the PC-TRIADD team has recently found a new, previously unrecognized, target area on the androgen receptor, which they named BF3. The group is now testing BF3 with a different class of drug therapies.

“We are very are excited about its potential to work,” says Dr. Martin Gleave, director of the Vancouver Prostate Centre and professor of Urologic Sciences at UBC. “By using computational chemogenomics, we are shaving years and years off the traditional process of hunting for new pathways to direct treatment towards and testing each new drug in a lab setting.”

In a traditional laboratory setting, potential targets are stumbled upon in less than one percent of analyses, which is both costly and time-consuming. To date, PC-TRIADD’s work has identified promising targets at a remarkable rate of 20 to 30 percent: every second or third molecule identified offers a new potential lead and efforts are put into targets that have a very good chance of being a successful candidate for drug therapy, before they even get to the hands-on research stage.

“I am living proof that research and excellence in prostate cancer treatment matters,” says Don Konantz, who was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in February 2011. “The Vancouver Prostate Centre is the largest concentration of brain power on prostate cancer anywhere in the world and as a patient it is comforting to know that this group is advancing our understanding of this debilitating and deadly disease right here in Canada.”

PC-TRIADD supports the commercialization aspect of the Vancouver Prostate Centre’s mandate, ensuring promising research advances move swiftly through the pipeline, moving from bench to bedside with minimal delays. This accelerated commercialization path not only benefits patients, it also generates spillover benefits to the economy and all Canadians, through improved overall health and economic expansion.

In the last year, the Vancouver Prostate Centre has attracted $20 million in new research funding, initiated 15 new clinical trials, and established 38 new contracts with academic, government, and industry partners for the provision of research services. Eight new contracts with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have been initiated and the Centre has led many national and international initiatives.

As part of prostate cancer awareness, clinicians and researchers at the Vancouver Prostate Centre remind men over the age of 40 to see their doctors and get their prostate examined. Regular testing increases the likelihood of cancer being detected at an early stage when there are more treatment options available and the chance of cure is highest.

Funding support of the computational chemogenomics research is provided by Genome BC.


Prostate Cancer Facts

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect Canadian men.
  • During his lifetime, one in seven men will be diagnosed with the disease.
  • An estimated 26,500 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and 4,000 will die of it.
  • On average, 73 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every day.
  • On average, 11 Canadian men will die of prostate cancer every day.
  • Over 90% of prostate cancer cases are curable if detected and treated in their earliest stages.
  • It is a far greater threat for those with a family history of prostate cancer. Men, if your father, grandfather or brother had prostate cancer, ensure your family doctor is aware of this.

A World Class Centre

The Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC) has a track record of success that has earned it a reputation as one of the world’s most respected cancer facilities. It is a National Centre of Excellence and a designated Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research.


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