When Masonic Scholar and pharmacology faculty member Aaron LeBeau, Ph.D., entered the research field, he quickly learned that there is no good way to image metastatic forms of prostate cancer.
That’s why his lab specializes in developing imaging agents and therapeutics that can detect the proteins and molecules behind the most aggressive forms of the disease.
LeBeau and his team are currently focused on the role of a potentially dangerous protein called CD133.
After developing and extensively testing an antibody that zeros in on CD133, they now have evidence that the protein is overexpressed in men with resistance to standard prostate cancer therapy.
Armed with these findings, LeBeau’s team is currently working to develop methods and therapies that target CD133 in aggressive prostate cancer. “Once men develop resistance to standard forms of prostate cancer therapy, there really are no good treatment options,” explains LeBeau. “This work could have a profound impact on patient survival. Our goal is to give hope to those men with no chance of survival by targeting CD133.”
“It is because of the support of the Masons that I was able to perform this research. I am forever grateful for that.”
Using the immune system to fight prostate cancer
In addition to his Masons-funded research, Aaron LeBeau is making real headway in a study that harnesses the immune system in the fight against prostate cancer.
Recently, using genome engineering and a protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), he and Masonic Cancer Center member Branden Moriarity, Ph.D., created a way to direct a patient’s own Natural Killer (NK) cells to hunt down and kill drug-resistant prostate cancer cells.
The work could bring big benefits to patients in the near future. “Our goal is to have a CAR NK cell therapy in the clinic for prostate cancer patients within a few years,” LeBeau says. “We believe it will prolong the life expectancy of, or even cure, men with aggressive prostate cancer.”