Three researchers at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have recently been awarded grants from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Dr. Isla Garraway will receive $1 million over the next two years to fund research that profiles molecular changes that occur in prostate cancers associated with metastatic progression and treatment resistance. The study will focus on men diagnosed and treated within the Veterans Healthcare System, with the goal of improving staging, prognostic, and predictive biomarkers that aid in the clinical management of prostate cancer.

Garraway led a team that was one of eight groups chosen by the Prostate Cancer Foundation to receive a 2017 Challenge Award. The Challenge Awards support teams of scientists’ worldwide conducting groundbreaking research that supports potential breakthrough treatments for prostate cancer patients. Challenge grant recipients were chosen by a peer review committee of scientific and clinical experts.

Garraway is an associate professor of urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Her research currently focuses on characterizing the cells of origin of prostate cancer, mechanisms of metastatic progression, and multiplatform prostate cancer profiling.

“I am honored that the Prostate Cancer Foundation has chosen to support our team’s work with the Veterans Affairs population,” said Garraway, who is also an attending urologist within the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System. “Prostate cancer affects thousands of Vets, and new strategies to identify aggressive cancer variants and optimize treatment is important to prolong life and quality of life in all men affected with this disease.”

UCLA researchers Dr. Johannes Czernin and Dr. Caius Radu have also been awarded a $1 million 2017 Challenge Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation to fund their preclinical studies and clinical trials testing the effectiveness of 177-Lu-PSMA-617, a radiation-emitting targeted therapy for prostate cancer.

Czernin and Radu are both professors of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The focus of their research is to improve the outcome of cancer patients by identifying cancer cell liabilities that can be exploited therapeutically. The prostate cancer research project combines radioligand therapy targeting the prostate specific membrane antigen with various pharmacologic approaches.

“We are grateful for this opportunity provided by the Prostate Cancer Foundation that allows us to further intensify our translational research program to improve patient outcomes,” said Czernin, who also serves as co-director of the cancer center’s molecular imaging program.   

Dr. Robert Reiter, Dr. Matthew Rettig and Dr. Nick Nickols also collaborated with the research team as co-investigators. They are also members of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.