This project is dedicated to the nearly 30,000 American men who die each year of prostate cancer. “While great progress has been made, there is a pressing need to develop better treatment,” explains pathologist Angelo De Marzo, M.D., Ph.D. “Sadly, about 95 percent of new cancer drugs fail in clinical trials – sometimes after investments of more than a billion dollars.” A major contributing factor to this high failure rate is “a lack of animal models in which new drugs and drug combinations can be tested.”
About 95 percent of new cancer drugs fail in clinical trials – sometimes after investments of more than a billion dollars. A major reason why is a lack of good animal models.
With Charles Bieberich, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, whose lab has expertise in genetic engineering of mice, De Marzo is developing a better animal model. “Human cancers arise due to the accumulation of mutations in DNA, and we can now easily make the same mutations happen in the DNA of mice,” says De Marzo. “This has allowed Dr. Bieberich’s laboratory to engineer a state-of-the-art mouse model of human prostate cancer – giving us, for the first time, a powerful platform to test new drugs.” However, there’s more to do: “We are learning that mice often don’t metabolize drugs the same way that humans do.” Another drawback to mice is that they are really small, which “makes it difficult to test new ways of imaging growing prostate cancers.”
With this Patrick C. Walsh award, De Marzo and Bieberich will “leverage our experience with mice to develop a state-of-the-art rat model of human prostate cancer.” Rats tend to metabolize drugs in much the same way that humans do, and their prostates are nearly ten times bigger than those of mice. “When this work is completed, we will have developed a powerful new tool in the fight against prostate cancer: a next-generation animal model in which the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and imaging methods can be carefully tested.”