UIC Receives $3 Million to Study Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

02/27/2009

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Health Research and Policy have been awarded a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study the link between body fat and prostate cancer progression.

Recent studies have found that obese men with prostate cancer have a higher likelihood of developing progressive or fatal disease regardless of their tumor grade and stage at diagnosis.

The UIC researchers plan to identify the biological factors responsible for poorer outcomes among obese patients, says Dr. Vincent Freeman, assistant professor of epidemiology at the UIC School of Public Health and principal investigator of the project.

The findings should lead to new approaches to preventing prostate cancer recurrence or progression after treatment that could involve drug therapies, lifestyle changes, or both, Freeman said.

Freeman's team will enroll approximately 500 men from Chicago-area medical centers who have been diagnosed with clinically early-stage prostate cancer and who are candidates for curative therapy with surgery.

Body fat will be quantified at the time of diagnosis and one year after surgery using standard body-size measurements such as waist circumference and body mass index, and body composition measurements using X-rays to measure the relative amounts of bone, body water, and body fat.

Data will also be collected for the patient's body-weight history, diet, physical activity level, general health and socio-demographic background.

At the time of surgery, the researchers will also collect prostate tissue and fat tissue from the region of the prostate gland for a series of biochemical and molecular studies, Freeman said. They will measure fatty acids and their metabolites; the activity of a signaling pathway called the insulin-like growth factor axis; inflammatory factors that are produced by fat cells; and metabolites of male hormones. The tests "will determine whether the activity of certain metabolic pathways explains the association between body fatness and prostate cancer recurrence," Freeman said.

Patients will be followed for two years with periodic measurements of prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland. Those with prostate cancer recurrence will be identified by an increasing PSA. Typically, the PSA should remain in an undetectable range following surgery for prostate cancer.

This news release was written by Sherri McGinnis González of the UIC News Bureau.