Developing new treatments for lethal prostate cancer

Justin DrakeOne in nine men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime.

Improved screening, earlier diagnosis, and new treatments have increased the prognosis for many, but some develop advanced prostate cancer that no longer responds to standard of care therapies, including an aggressive variant called neuroendocrine prostate cancer.

That’s why Masonic Scholar Justin Drake, Ph.D., part of the U’s pharmacology and urology faculty, is working to find effective new treatment options.

“There is no cure for patients with advanced prostate cancer, so finding new treatments that can extend life, improve quality of life, or cure this disease is critical,” Drake says.

Recently, Drake and his team identified a signaling enzyme, called RET, which may play a role in the development and survival of neuroendocrine prostate cancer. With Masonic support, they are now targeting RET with specific therapies in animal models and have seen a significant reduction in neuroendocrine prostate tumor growth. Their next big step will be to further validate their findings in other models and eventually launch clinical trials testing their approach in men. If successful, their treatment strategy, possibly in combination with other common prostate cancer therapies, could dramatically change outcomes for those affected by one of the most challenging types of prostate cancer.

“It means a great deal to be funded by Minnesota Masonic Charities. Their support has allowed me to pursue new avenues with my research, which may lead to novel and exciting treatments for lethal prostate cancer.”

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