Cleveland Clinic’s Nima Sharifi, MD, was honored with the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) Challenge Award, the second time in four years that he has received the highly competitive grant. The award is given to multi-disciplinary teams searching for innovative solutions to pressing problems in prostate cancer.
Dr. Sharifi will use his $1M award to explore new drug targets for advanced, treatment-resistant prostate cancer. Specifically, his team will study a pathway that causes prostate cancer cells to accumulate more of the stress hormone cortisol, which enables tumors to withstand treatment and continue to thrive.
While the majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from their disease, those who have aggressive forms will eventually become resistant to all treatments and have poor survival rates. For these men, new alternative treatments are urgently needed.
Dr. Sharifi plans to identify what happens when prostate cancer “switches” to being resistant to treatment and cells begin to accumulate higher levels of cortisol. He believes that this pathway can be reversed and has identified a key tumor target to disrupt these metabolic mechanisms.
Together with Shaun Stauffer, PhD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Therapeutics Discovery, Dr. Sharifi’s team has designed and constructed small molecule compounds that can be tested against the drug target to potentially inhibit the resistance pathway. The PCF funding will allow them to refine their most promising new compounds by making them more potent and specific and creating and testing alternative forms.
“We are very fortunate to have Dr. Stauffer on staff here at Cleveland Clinic,” Dr. Sharifi said. “His medicinal chemistry expertise and his center’s capabilities have really accelerated this research in a short amount of time and allowed us to obtain exciting preliminary results.”
In 2015, Dr. Sharifi received a PCF Challenge Award and has been co-principal investigator on two other awards. “We are honored to have ongoing support from PCF and have harnessed that support into groundbreaking discoveries,” explained Eric Klein, MD, co-investigator on the award and Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute. “We are excited to see what new developments in prostate cancer care will result from this latest award.”
Dr. Sharifi holds the Kendrick Family Chair for Prostate Cancer Research at Cleveland Clinic. He directs the Cleveland Clinic Center for Genitourinary Malignancies Research. He has joint appointments in the Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute and Taussig Cancer Institute. In 2017, he received the national Top Ten Clinical Achievement Award from the Clinical Research Forum for earlier discoveries linking genetic variants with poor prostate cancer outcomes. Other members of the Challenge Award team include Jorge Garcia, MD; Jianneng Li, PhD; Mohammad Alyamani, PhD; and Mary-Ellen Taplin, MD, from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.