University of Minnesota Medical School Researchers Discover New Therapy for Prostate Cancer Patients
MINNEAPOLIS, MN- January 28, 2019 – Masonic Cancer Center members Aaron LeBeau, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Branden Moriarity, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School received the Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award to further their work identifying new therapies for prostate cancer. This is the first Challenge Award in the history of the Prostate Cancer Foundation solely awarded to investigators at the University of Minnesota.
LeBeau’s and Moriarty’s research focuses on using the patient’s own immune system to fight prostate cancer. Currently, cells known as T cells are used as a therapy to kill invading cancer cells and help give the patient’s immune system a boost. But LeBeau and Moriarty have developed a way to use Natural Killer (NK) cells which are found in the body and can kill tumor cells. Using a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) for targeted activation, the CAR NK cells will hunt down and eliminate drug-resistant prostate cancer cells. NK cells don’t require the same donor matching that T cells do, which could cut down the cost of CAR NK cell therapies compared to CAR T-cell therapies, making it a more accessible therapy.
“Using cutting-edge genome engineering technology, we have developed methods to generate CAR NK cells from NK cells in the blood,” said Moriarity.
“All of this innovative work is being done at the University of Minnesota. Our goal is to have a CAR NK cell therapy into the clinic for prostate cancer patients within a few years,” said LeBeau. “We believe that it will prolong the life expectancy of, or even cure, men with aggressive prostate cancer.”
The Challenge Award seeks to fund cross-disciplinary teams of investigators in strategic areas as they strive towards a solution of a significant problem in prostate cancer research.
Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, according to the American Cancer Society. Estimates for prostate cancer deaths in 2019 in the U.S. are more than 31,500.
About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit med.umn.edu to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine.
About Masonic Cancer Center
The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota is the Twin Cities’ own Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated ‘Outstanding’ by the National Cancer Institute. For more than 25 years, researchers, educators, and care providers have worked to discover the causes, prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and cancer-related diseases. Learn more at cancer.umn.edu.
Contact: Krystle Barbour