Professor Plays Part in Search for Cancer Cure

Last Updated on May 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Originally published Jan. 2012

By Jennifer Clampet

The state of Texas has a plan to beat cancer. The University of Texas at El Paso is striving to play a major part in that medical breakthrough.

“All three of us have a novel therapy or drugs in the pipeline,” said Marc B. Cox, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UTEP, speaking on the advancements he and two colleagues have made in developing novel therapies for prostate cancer.

His words of progress came more than six months after receiving an almost $1 million multi-investigator grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) – an institution created by the state to lead the way in groundbreaking cancer research.

On Jan. 27, as Cox officially accepted the grant at a ceremony held at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, he also touched on promising news for the anticipation of commercialization and later job creation stemming from the group’s breakthroughs.

“All three of us have independent projects but are synergized to the same goal,” said Cox, who is working with Jan-Ake Gustafsson, M.D., Ph.D, from the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at the University of Houston, and Paul Webb, Ph.D, of Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston.

Each year more than 200,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 30,000 die from the disease. After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the leading cause of death for men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The estimated cost of all forms of cancer in Texas is $28 billion, according to a 2011 assessment by The Perry Group.

“But more importantly, the cost of cancer is 40,000 Texans a year,” said Bill Gimson, CPRIT executive director.

“We all have family members affected by this disease (cancer),” said State Rep. Marisa Marquez during the Jan. 27 presentation ceremony. “(Finding a cure for cancer) is a priority for our delegation.”

State Rep. Dee Margo and State Sen. Jose Rodriguez also gave stirring remarks in support of the funding for cancer research and prevention.

CPRIT was established through a Texas voter approved constitutional amendment that authorized the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas.

Since 2010, the institution has funded 364 awards for cancer research, commercialization and prevention totaling more than $599 million.

Research conducted under Cox as the principal investigator is geared toward treatment of prostate cancer. Early-stage prostate cancer grows and survives on male hormones called androgens. Current treatments target the availability of the hormones in the body. In recurrent and severe forms of the cancer, prostate tumors may become resistant to therapy, enabling tumors to spread and limiting treatment options.

Since being awarded the grant, Cox also published a paper in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The report – titled “Targeting the regulation of androgen receptor signaling by the heat shock protein 90 cochaperone FKBP52 in prostate cancer cells” – details how Cox’s promising molecules seem to effectively and efficiently block the stimulation of prostate cancer growth in response to the male hormone testosterone with the possibility of less harmful side effects.

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