UTHSC Professor Receives Prostate Cancer Grant

By Don Wade

Ormeloxifene. If you know the name at all, you know it as a birth-control drug. But that drug is now being studied to see if it can be repurposed to inhibit growth of advanced-state prostate cancer cells and used as a therapeutic agent to manage and treat advanced prostate cancer.

“We are trying to develop a ... drug that can inhibit prostate cancer metastasis via suppression of a master oncogenic signaling pathway.”

–Subhash Chauhan

Over a three-year period, the Department of Defense is providing a $562,500 grant for this study to Dr. Subhash Chauhan, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

“Metastatic prostate cancer is a major clinical challenge,” Chauhan said. “We are trying to develop a therapeutic drug that can inhibit prostate cancer metastasis via suppression of a master oncogenic signaling pathway. Inhibition of this pathway will eventually inhibit several other cancer metastasis-associated genes to suppress the process of cancer spreading.”

Chauhan and Dr. Meena Jaggi will lead the grant study and a team of about 10 investigators.

Each year, approximately 233,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer. An estimated 29,480 will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. African-American men face a disproportionate risk, with those who get prostate cancer 2.5 times more likely to die from it compared to Caucasian men.

“Early diagnosis is definitely key,” Chauhan said, and the medical community has stepped up its promotion of colonoscopies as an early detector. “But when it comes time to do (prostate cancer) surgery, we cannot remove the whole thing. It can come back.”

About one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. About six in 10 cases are diagnosed in men 65 and older. It is rare before age 40, and colonoscopies are generally recommended beginning at age 50. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

“Incidence of prostate cancer is relatively higher in Western countries, like the United States, compared to other parts of the world, like Japan, China and India,” Chauhan said. “Studies suggest diet may play an important role in lower cancer prevalence and death rate in those parts of the world where they consume certain spices, including curcumin.”