Herd of Hope Team Science Leaders 2022, Drs. Long, Chatta, Smiraglia, Goodrich and Tang.

The 2022 Herd of Hope Team Science Award

At Roswell Park, the Herd of Hope team science award has been fueling team research initiatives driving cancer-fighting innovations since 2018. Each year, a grant is awarded to a team of investigators who are advancing scientific research that has the potential to save lives and change the way we treat cancer.

This funding would not be possible without the dedicated individual and corporate partners who are part of the Herd of Hope. These partners are spread out across Western New York, marked by the Herd’s signature blue buffalos. These forward-thinking donors play a critical role in the fight against cancer at Roswell Park.

Novel Strategies to Tackle Prostate Cancer Therapy Resistance and Extend Patient Survival

Led by Dean Tang, PhD, George Decker Endowed Chair in Developmental Therapeutics, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Current therapies to treat metastatic prostate cancer are, unfortunately, often short-lived. Even the most effective treatments often only work for two years before a patient’s cancer recurs. One strategy that prostate cancer uses to escape the clinical therapies is called lineage plasticity — when cancer cells change to become resistant to treatment.

“Prostate cancer is the most prevalent cancer in men in the United States, with more than 250,000 annual new diagnosis,” Dr. Tang said. “Each year more than 33,000 prostate cancer patients die from the disease. This high mortality is unacceptable, considering that current standard-of-care treatment called ADT, or androgen deprivation therapy, was introduced in the clinic more than 70 years ago.”

“The high prostate cancer-specific mortality is not because cancer cells do not respond to ADT but rather because they rapidly develop resistance. Research from this team has uncovered a new mechanism to explain how prostate cancer cells become resistant to ADT. It will be very exciting and impactful to translate our knowledge of this new mechanism to treat patients.”

Improving Outcomes for Patients

Investigators at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center believe it’s crucial to stop or even reverse recurrence through therapies in order to improve outcomes for these prostate cancer patients and ultimately reach cures.

Dr. Tang and his team — David Goodrich, PhD, Gurkamal Chatta, MD, Dominic Smiraglia, PhD, and Mark Long, PhD — are seeking more effective, longer lasting treatments. With the support of the Herd of Hope, these researchers will dive into three interconnected projects, each aimed at uncovering the novel vulnerabilities surrounding the lineage plasticity of prostate cancer cells and how to stop it.

The first project will focus on eliciting synthetic lethality, combining two inhibitors to simultaneously block two different pathways that make prostate cancer cells shape-shift.

The second project will use epigenetic therapy (non-mutation based) to interrupt the inner making that allow prostate cancer cells to adapt and resist treatment.

The third project will strive to suppress the lineage plasticity by using the so-called bipolar or cyclic androgen therapy to force differentiation in the cancer cells until they’re again susceptible to current standard-of-care treatment.

Each of these investigations is associated with a corresponding, ongoing clinical trial.

Donor Support Drives Innovation

“The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, through donor funding, has generously supported and played essential roles in many of our research projects,” Dr. Tang said. “In 2017, we won a peer-reviewed Alliance Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) grant, which allowed us to generate crucial laboratory data.”

That data led to two multiyear National Cancer Institute grants in 2018 and 2019 which empowered them to continue their work. Initial donor support made it possible for the team to acquire crucial pre-clinical data for the clinical trial led by Dr. Chatta Professor of Oncology and Clinical Chief of Genitourinary Medicine, Dr. Tang said.

Together, this team seeks to find hope for prostate cancer patients in Buffalo and all around the world. The secrets of cancer they unlock could lead to practice-changing and survival-extending treatments that will shape the way we treat metastatic prostate cancer.

Herd of Hope sparks multi-center collaboration

The team at Roswell Park is additionally collaborating with Samuel Denmeade, MD, at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University and Hmisha Beltran, MD, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.

The leaders of the 2022 Herd of Hope team science project are:

Dean Tang, PhD, George Decker Endowed Chair in Developmental Therapeutics, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics

David Goodrich, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Oncology, Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Education

Gurkamal Chatta, MD, Professor of Oncology, Clinical Chief of Genitourinary Medicine

Dominic Smiraglia, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology, Department of Cell Stress Biology

Mark Long, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Biostatistics & Bioinformatics

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center