SIUC working on cure for prostate cancer

By Gus Bode

A cure for prostate cancer is getting closer, SIUC researchers say.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one in six American men will develop prostate cancer.

Researchers in the SIUC Meyers Institute for Interdisciplinary Research are pursuing a treatment for prostate cancer that has fewer negative side effects.

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The prostate, a gland about the size of a walnut located under the bladder, is found only in men and aids in semen production. Prostate cancer is caused when malignant cells move to and destroy nearby tissue and may further spread to other parts of the body, according to the Prostate Cancer Institute.

The compound BDDA, or Z-bis-dehydrodoisynolic acid, and similar compounds developed at the institute are shrinking the prostate, reducing the growth of cancer and doing both with few to no feminizing effects.

Previous methods used female hormones to slow the growth of cancer cells, but those hormones caused patients to experience severe side effects including developing feminine characteristics. Cal Meyers, director of the institute with his namesake, said some versions of compound are providing positive results with fewer side effects than current methods.

Meyers said developing of the compound could have implications on the larger field of cancer therapy, including breast cancer.

“I want to understand what’s going on in the bodies, and it’s all chemistry,” Meyers said. “We’re doing beautiful things.”

Yuqing Hou, the institute’s associate director, said the compound was patented in 2003, but that does not translate immediately into a product being ready for the market. Animal testing has been done with the compound and some of its other versions, but it still needs to go through three clinical human testing stages and be granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Hou said the compound shrank the prostate by up to 70 percent in tests on rats, and high doses only had a small feminizing effect.

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“The ideal goal would be to have a compound with zero estrogenic activity,” Hou said.

Getting the compound ready for market requires time and money beyond those available solely through the University, said Dr. Stuart Adler, associate professor at the SIU School of Medicine.

“It’s very hard to get a compound from discovery to being a drug,” Adler said.

There have been inquiries from pharmaceutical companies regarding taking the compound through the process to make it marketable. The SIUC Technology Transfer Group is helping this process, Adler said.

The researchers and students affiliated with the institute are working to further cancer and other research, said Aaron McLean, a doctoral student in chemistry.

“Everybody here knows what everybody’s working on,” McLean said.

Myers said the group work at the institute has been pivotal in moving research in cancer and multiple other areas forward since the institute opened in 2000 through a donation by Myers of $3 million to the SIU Foundation.

In addition to strides in cancer research, the institute has success in the areas of making compounds, discovering how chemical reactions work and affect the body, biological testing and medicinal chemistry, Myers said.

Reporter Katie Pennell can be reached at [email protected]

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