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Scientists Win $2.25 Million Grant to Fund Research into Prostate Cancer Stem Cells
Dr. Owen Witte Dr. Hong Wu
Dr. Isla Garraway Mike Teitell
A team of researchers from UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center and the Broad Stem Cell Research Center has received a $2.25 million grant to study prostate cancer stem cells and better define the role they play in cancer development, drug resistance and disease recurrence.

The team, led by Dr. Owen Witte, was one of eight groups chosen by the Prostate Cancer Foundation to receive a 2008 Challenge Award. Witte’s group was chosen from a nationwide pool of more than 100 proposals. In all, the foundation committed more than $19 million to fund research to discover new treatments for recurrent prostate cancer.

Witte, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and the lead investigator for the UCLA team, said he was pleased to be picked for funding and that he and his colleagues are anxious to launch their project.

“Cancer stem cells can lay dormant, but they have the ability to grow and the cancer will come back, usually at a later, more serious and more deadly stage,” said Owen Witte, who also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a nationally renowned cancer researcher. “Those cancer stem cells are the cells that we really need to fear and treat, because those are the cells that will make a cancer come back.”

Witte’s team includes Dr. Pei-Yu Choiu, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Dr. Isla Garraway, an assistant professor of urology; Dr. Michael Teitell; an associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine; Dr. Hong Wu; a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology; and Dr. Inder M. Verma of the Salk Institute in San Diego.

Howard Soule, the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s executive vice president of discovery and translation, said the approved projects “will deliver critical contributions to the rapidly growing base of scientific knowledge on prostate cancer.”

“These awards are aimed at accelerating breakthrough discoveries that can potentially end death and suffering from prostate cancer,” Soule said. “That is our single focus and goal.”

The Challenge Awards invest in larger, multi-year projects with high potential for solving problems associated with advanced prostate cancer and those that may lead to better treatments for the disease.

Challenge grant recipients were chosen by a peer review committee of scientific and clinical experts.

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center comprises about 235 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2007, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named the best cancer center in California by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for eight consecutive years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at www.cancer.ucla.edu
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