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Department of Defense Awards Grant to Fox Chase Cancer Center Researcher; Alan Pollack, MD, PhD To Receive $630,000 to Study Prostate Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (May 21, 2003) — Alan Pollack, MD, PhD, of Rydal, Pa., chairman of the radiation oncology department at Fox Chase Cancer Center, has been awarded a $630,000 grant by the Department of Defense to study a strategy that makes prostate cancer cells more sensitive to treatment.

Prostate cancer is often treated with radiation therapy and/or hormone therapy. Radiation therapy often cures patients with prostate cancer, but in advanced cases is not very effective. Likewise, hormone therapy by itself is not curative. Recent studies indicate that results are improved by giving radiation and hormone therapy together; however, cure rates in advanced patients are still not optimal. Pollack's grant from the Department of Defense's Prostate Cancer Research Program funds research focuses on the suppression of a protein within cancer cells to make these cells more likely to die when either radiation or hormone therapy is applied.

"The protein that controls the sensitivity of the cells to these treatments is called MDM2," explains Pollack. "We know that the production of the MDM2 protein can be suppressed by administering a synthetic DNA antisense MDM2 molecule (Hybridon Inc, Cambridge, MA). Preliminary data indicate that antisense MDM2 sensitizes prostate cancer cells to both radiation and hormone therapy when given individually. But often, radiation and hormone therapies are combined, so we need to determine if antisense is as effective when these two treatments are given together.

"Another important goal of this work is to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in MDM2 expression and whether the abnormal expression of MDM2 in some tumors is associated with a poorer response to radiation or hormone therapy. We hope to be able to identify which patients would benefit from treatment with antisense MDM2, when this drug is combined with hormone therapy, radiation therapy or both," Pollack adds.

Pollack and his collaborators will test the effects of antisense MDM2 in cell cultures and in animal models.

He adds, "The end goal is to identify ways to completely eradication tumor cells from the prostate and to eliminate small deposits of cells that have escaped the prostate and spread to lymph nodes or distant structures like bone. Since antisense MDM2 has the potential to increase responses to both hormone and radiation therapy, prostate cancer patients with the full spectrum of disease, from early-localized to advanced-metastatic, may benefit."

The Department of Defense grant is part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs ( which administers funds for peer reviewed research directed toward specific diseases and supports research that positively impacts the health and well-being of all Americans.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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