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BCM scientist receives creativity award for prostate cancer research

Dr. Gustavo Ayala, professor of pathology and immunology and urology at Baylor College of Medicine, is one of 12 researchers nationwide to receive a two-year Creativity Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Ayala's work focuses on nerve growth (neurogenesis) in prostate cancer. His previous work showed that prostate cancer cells interact directly with nerves and that nerves are most dense in the micro-environment surrounding prostate tumors. He hypothesizes that the growth of new nerves actually promotes progression of prostate tumors.

Will Botox prompt anti-tumor activity?

He and his colleagues have planned a human study to determine whether treatment with BOTOX®, a powerful nerve toxin, will prompt anti-tumor activity by interrupting the growth of new nerves. They also hope that the study will help them identify the mechanism by which the interaction of nerves and prostate cancer cells promote tumor growth.

"These Creativity Awards are crucial to furthering this kind of research, which probes new avenues with which to attack this deadly disease," said Ayala, who holds the R. Clarence and Irene H. Fulbright Chair in Pathology. "I would like to thank the Prostate Cancer Foundation for considering not only my project, but those of my colleagues who are also looking for new ways to fight prostate cancer."

The Prostate Cancer Foundation's Creativity Awards are designed to support new ideas for better diagnostics, treatments and even cures for prostate cancer. The awards are designed to foster innovations in research that often go unfunded by government or other private sources. This year, the Foundation awarded $3.6 million to the 12 researchers.

New approaches urgently needed

"We continue to lose an American man to prostate cancer every 19 minutes and more than 192,000 new cases will diagnosed this year," said Dr. Howard Soule, executive vice president and chief scientist for PCF. "New approaches for treating this disease are urgently needed. The talent and creative thinking of these 12 award recipients will feed our discovery pipeline and cultivate new solutions for the prostate cancer."

Others who received the awards include Drs. Brendan Curti of Providence Portland Medical Center in Oregon; Jennifer Doll of North Shore University Health System Research Institute in Illinois; Charles Drake of Johnson Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Maryland (The Evensen Family-PCF Creativity Award); James Marshall of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York; Nora Navone and Renata Pasqualini, each receiving awards, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston; William Oh of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, Kenneth Pienta of the University of Michigan; Matthew Rettig of the University of California Los Angeles; Matthew Smith of Massachusetts General Hospital and Scott Williams of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Australia.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the world's largest philanthropic source of support for accelerating the world's most promising research for discovering better treatments and cures for prostate cancer. Founded in 1993, the PCF has raised nearly $400 million and provided funding to more than 1,500 researchers at nearly 200 institutions worldwide. PCF advocates for greater awareness of prostate cancer and more efficient investment of governmental research funds for transformational cancer research. Its efforts have helped produce a 20-fold increase in government funding for prostate cancer. More information about the PCF and the other 11 awards can be found at www.pcf.org.