Our mission is to understand how prostate cancer metastasizes or spreads from the primary site (the prostate) to other organs such as the skeleton. Understanding this process can identify new therapeutic targets than can help in the fight against this disease that kills 30,000 men each year in the USA alone.
1. To identify molecules that facilitate prostate cancer metastasis
We are utilizing the vast information collected by the Genitourinary Oncology program (GU Oncology Program) here at Moffitt Cancer Center. With patient consent, prostate cancer specimens have been collected and microarray analyzed for almost a decade. This bank will be invaluable in identifying individual genes and gene clusters that can ultimately define metastasis program in prostate cancer. To identify whether these genes play a role in prostate cancer metastasis we are also developing cells lines that will metastasize spontaneously from the murine prostate to the skeleton.
2. To define how metastatic prostate cancer cells interact with the bone microenvironment to establish and grow as secondary cancers
Prostate cancer frequently spreads to the bone. Previously we have identified that a family of proteinases known as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are highly expressed in this setting. We have focused on using animal models of prostate cancer in bone to determine whether individual MMPs contribute to the progression of the disease. Our results thus far have identified key roles for individual MMPs (MMP-7 and MMP-9) in facilitating the cross-talk between prostate cancer cells and the cells of the bone, making them an attractive therapeutic target. We are currently pursuing the roles of other MMPs and their substrates in a bid to identify therapeutic targets that can help prevent prostate cancer growth and progression in bone.