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October 22, 2007

Wolverines Against Prostate Cancer Challenge

ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) and have joined forces to raise $2 million to accelerate research towards developing targeted therapies for prostate cancer.  The Prostate Cancer Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic source of research funding for prostate cancer, was founded by Mike Milken 14 years ago and has had a profound impact on advancing better treatments and the search for a cure.

Over the past decade, the PCF has awarded the University of Michigan close to $5 million in prostate cancer research funding in recognition of the important research being done here. And now the PCF is stepping up its commitment and has challenged the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology (MCTP) to raise $1 million -- which they will match dollar for dollar for a total of $2 million to accelerate the potential of this transformational discovery. This initial $2 million goal is the first phase of a larger $16 million campaign. Proceeds raised will be directed to the U-M Prostate Cancer Targeted Therapy Research Fund.

“U-M has changed the paradigm of how investigators are researching targeted treatments for prostate cancers. This match is to help find a therapy similar to what was accomplished for the gene fusion BCR-ABL that was targeted by the blockbuster drug Gleevec to become an effective treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia,” says Jonathan W. Simons, chief executive officer and president of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

The monies raised in this campaign will fund work to develop a therapy that can be engineered to seek out cells that harbor the gene fusion discovered by Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology.  Chinnaiyan and his team found that two genes unique to prostate cancer fuse together and can be easily detected, resulting in a perfect target for cancer-killing therapies.  With a new targeted therapy, physicians will be able to kill prostate cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. 

“A therapy of this kind will be able to be extended into other common solid tumors, including cancer of the breast, lung, colon and skin.  To accelerate the discovery of a therapy designed against the prostate cancer gene fusion, our research team initially needs $2 million to jump-start the translation of this laboratory discovery to the patients suffering from prostate cancer,” Chinnaiyan says.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in the United States.  One in six American men will develop prostate cancer in the course of his lifetime.  More than 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and 27,000 will die from the disease. A little-known fact is that a man is 33 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than an American woman is to get breast cancer. 

“It is an arms race and time is of the essence.  We are seeing the largest budget cuts in federal funding ever from the National Institutes of Health and we must rely more and more on philanthropy.  A generous commitment to advance this critically important research initiative will be instrumental to ending prostate cancer as a cause of death and suffering,” says Kenneth Pienta, M.D., director of urologic oncology at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

To join in the $2 million “Wolverines Against Prostate Cancer Challenge”, please contact Steffanie Fineman, director of development for the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and Department of Urology, 734-615-9843 or ssamuels@umich.edu.

Written by Steffanie Fineman, 734-615-9843

 

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