Annual Report 2013: Ending Cancer Together
For many prostate cancer patients, there is a window of opportunity following diagnosis when cancer's progression or recurrence may be stymied. Dr. Janet Stanford's latest research targets this window by evaluating the re-purposing of a popular and seemingly unrelated type of medication.
This year, Stanford, who co-directs Fred Hutch's Prostate Cancer Research Program, published her finding that cholesterol-reducing medications called statins significantly reduce prostate cancer mortality. The study was conducted in collaboration with a researcher from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Funding support was provided by the Dutch Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, Fred Hutch's own Innovators Network, and a Creativity Award presented to Stanford by the Prostate Cancer Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif.
The discovery could have broad impact as prostate cancer is the most common type of malignancy and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men, and more than a quarter of all men in the U.S. take a statin to reduce their cholesterol level.
"My hope is that this work will stimulate further research on the potential role that statins may play in reducing prostate cancer-specific mortality, which accounts for almost 30,000 cancer-related deaths a year in the U.S. alone," Stanford said. "If such medications are confirmed to reduce the risk of fatal prostate cancer, then that would offer hope to many of the almost 240,000 U.S. men each year who are diagnosed with the disease."
Importantly, Stanford said, this research has relied on the participation of hundreds of Seattle-area men whose data and biospecimens have become a critical resource in support of various prostate cancer research efforts underway at Fred Hutch.
"This study represents an important partnership between researchers, patients and donors, all of whom are critical to the successful completion of this discovery aimed at reducing prostate cancer morbidity and mortality," Stanford said. One such partner is Jim Kiefert, a retired school district administrator and current chairman of the Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE, a consortium of four regional research institutions. Kiefert has also facilitated a cancer support group for about 20 years.
Stanford said it seems unlikely that federal research funders would support a large randomized trial on the topic given the current budget constraints, but she hopes other researchers with access to data on statin use among prostate cancer patients will further test the hypothesis set forth by her work.
The research of Dr. Janet Stanford is supported in part by Fred Hutch's Innovators Network, a group of individuals whose aggregate funding through the Hartwell Innovation Fund seeds advances in all areas of the Hutch's research.
“This study represents an important partnership between researchers, patients and donors, all of whom are critical to the successful completion of this discovery aimed at reducing prostate cancer morbidity and mortality.”
– Dr. Janet Stanford