prostate cancer discovery

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the patrick c. walsh prostate cancer research fund

Changing the Genes in Prostate Cancer

Just as our currency is the dollar, the body’s currency is protein. Every cell we have does whatever it does using proteins. The DNA, our genetic code, contains the instructions for how to print up more currency, or make a protein. Step one of protein-making is transcription: the cell makes a copy, or a transcript, of the DNA. This copy is called RNA. Then, the RNA gets converted, or translated, into a chain of amino acids, and voilà — a protein is born. Thus, RNA translates genes into working proteins. Back to our dollar image: just as the government embeds special images into paper money so it can’t be counterfeited, the body adds something, too. “A key regulatory element, the polyA tail, is added to the end of every protein-coding RNA,” says scientist Shawn Lupold, Ph.D. “This tail consists of hundreds of Adenosine nucleotides and serves to increase RNA stability.” Think of a kite with a long string of flags hanging beneath it; these Adenosine flags are the building blocks of DNA. “PolyA tails can be introduced at different sites within each gene transcript, and the location of the polyA tail affects gene expression. Moreover, its location often differs between normal and cancerous cells.”

Could these genetic kite tails possibly affect the genes of prostate cancer? In work supported by the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund, Lupold and co-investigator Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian, M.D., Ph.D. propose to “apply specialized RNA sequencing techniques to map the altered location of polyA tails in all genes expressed by prostate cancer,” Lupold says. “We hope we will uncover new cancer pathways and biomarkers. Secondly, we propose to modify the machinery that regulates where these polyA tails are located, to study its influence on prostate cancer and aggressiveness.

These results may uncover new therapeutic targets for the management of aggressive prostate cancer.”

Lupold Named Distinguished Professor

Shawn Lupold, Ph.D., has been named the Catherine Iola and J. Smith Michael Distinguished Professor in Urology. This professorship was established by Mr. J. Smith Michael, a former president and board chairman of the First National Bank of Aberdeen and patient of the Brady Institute, and his wife, Catherine Iola Michael. The Chair was originally held by the Brady’s legendary scientist Don Coffey, who is now an Emeritus Professor.

Lupold, associate professor of Urology and Oncology, is Co-Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Prostate Cancer Program. His research focuses on prostate cancer biology with the goal of exploiting prostate tissue-specificity to develop new diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic agents.

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