Institute for Prostate Cancer Research

The Institute for Prostate Cancer Research (IPCR) is a collaborative effort between Fred Hutch Cancer Center and UW Medicine. Together, we are a team of more than 40 scientists and scientist-clinicians in multiple disciplines.

Our expert team of scientists and clinicians work to fulfill our three-part mission:

  • Understanding prostate cancer to improve diagnosis and treatment.
  • Providing effective, individualized therapy for patients.
  • Extending and enhancing the quality of a patient’s life upon diagnosis.

To achieve this mission, we are committed to:

  • Studying potential preventive agents and strategies.
  • Developing new biomarkers for early diagnosis and therapy selection.
  • Improving surgical, radiation and ablative techniques.
  • Exploring the biology of prostate cancer metastasis and resistance to treatment.
  • Understanding hereditary and acquired gene defects to develop better detection and therapy strategies.
  • Advancing targeted imaging technologies and integrating them with novel therapies.
  • Conducting innovative clinical trials to bring new discoveries to the bedside.
cover image of 2021 IPCR annual report
Learn more about our 2021 activities in our annual report.

Help Us Find a Cure for Prostate Cancer

Private support is essential to fund research in laboratory, clinical and population settings, and ensures that the most talented researchers can focus their efforts on finding ways to prevent and cure prostate cancer.

Investing in the IPCR is a unique opportunity to build a lasting legacy in the battle against this devastating cancer.

Your support helps us:

  • Fund innovative, high-risk and high-gain research, such as testing novel approaches for prostate cancer prevention and finding and exploiting new therapeutic targets.
  • Recruit and retain the best and brightest scientists and physicians in the field of prostate cancer research and care. Invest in infrastructure to support research.
  • Invest in infrastructure to support research.
     

Support Our Efforts Against Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Research

Through cutting-edge research, scientists and clinicians provide hope for men with prostate cancer and their families in the Northwest and the world. We’ve already identified and/or assembled up to 80 percent of the genes expressed in prostate cancer, developed one of the largest serum and tissue banks in the world, undertaken some of the most advanced studies of bone biology and skeletal metastases, assembled information and genotypes for more than 300 families with hereditary prostate cancer and developed many new therapeutic strategies.

Our prostate cancer research targets the goals of developing better approaches for preventing, detecting and curing prostate cancer. We’ve categorized our projects and findings into five areas:

Risk Factors

Lifestyle Factors

Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer have more than two-and-a-half times the risk of dying from the disease compared to men of normal weight at the time of diagnosis. Obese men also have a higher risk of developing high-grade, aggressive prostate cancer.

Middle-aged men who are long-term, heavy smokers face twice the risk of developing more aggressive forms of prostate cancer than men who have never smoked.

Greater consumption of dark green and cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli and cauliflower, has been linked to a decreased risk of prostate cancer.

Four or more 4-ounce glasses of red wine per week yield about a 60 percent lower incidence of the more aggressive types of prostate cancer.

Decoding Prostate Cancer’s Biology for Prevention

We lead an international research team analyzing blood, DNA, prostate biopsy tissue and surgery tissue from almost 19,000 study participants.

Researchers developed the UW-OncoPlex™, a diagnostic test focusing on 200 gene mutations. This technology is the first nationally to detect treatable gene copy changes for active treatment interventions. While the test panel is used for a variety of cancers, our researchers have developed eight precision genome targets unique to prostate cancer.

We played a major role in The Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. This national trial found that Finasteride cut the risk of developing prostate cancer by almost 25 percent.

Improving Screening and Diagnostics

Refining Detection and Treatment Choices

Our researchers were among the first to formally evaluate the PSA test’s ability to distinguish between true cancers and benign prostate conditions. They determined that modifying the test to use two types of measurements improved accuracy for men with borderline-normal PSA levels, potentially leading to a significant drop in biopsy-related costs and complications.

Our research found roughly one-third of older men diagnosed with prostate cancer through the PSA test are over-treated and receive surgeries or other treatments even though the disease is not likely to threaten their health.

We’re leading the first multi-institution active surveillance study into finding biomarkers of localized prostate cancer that can determine when to take a wait and watch approach and when to treat the disease more aggressively.

Improving the Power of Prediction After Diagnosis

Our researchers have pinpointed molecular features that help predict how prostate cancer cells will behave. These findings could help identify genes to target for new therapies and point to possible blood-based markers of aggressive prostate cancer.

After analyzing 86 different genes, we determined which were turned on in low- or high-grade prostate cancer cells with great accuracy. The study was the first systematic attempt to distinguish which molecular features can objectively predict how prostate cancer behaves, leading doctors to more appropriate therapies.

Imaging the Spread of Tumors

Scientists are investigating the use of tracermolecules in lighting up minute tumors. So far, we’ve used this approach in mice to understand how aggressive prostate tumors spread to bones and other tissues. By learning which types of cells contribute to the development of aggressive disease, scientists hope to detect aggressive prostate cancer earlier, and treat it more effectively.

Enhancing Quality of Life

Quality of Life After Local Treatments

Researchers determined survival rates are comparable for both radiation by seeds or external beam, and prostate-removal surgery by open or robotic approaches. Since both forms of treatment carry potentially disruptive side-effects, we use multiple institutional databases to conduct comprehensive studies of sexual, bowel and urinary function among men who undergo these treatments, in addition to comparing their effectiveness at cancer control.

Better Local Therapy

In some cases, cancer treatment requires doctors to remove the nerves controlling erections. We’re the leading national center for using and improving nerve graft techniques to enhance erectile return.

We’re investigating better ways both to teach and perform robotic surgery using simulation.

Research shows that different and more extensive removal of pelvic lymph nodes improve surgical results. We continue to adopt and improve these newer approaches for men with more serious cases of local disease.

Radiation therapy after surgery for local recurrence, while effective, can be improved by altering the radiation fields.

In an effort to find treatment options with fewer side effects, we’re investigating new ways of destroying localized cancer with electrical fields or special light activation approaches.

Quality of Life in Advanced Disease

Muscle wasting, weight loss and fatigue are significant problems for advanced prostate cancer patients. Researchers investigating the causes and possible treatments for these symptoms, including clinical trials of new drugs that may help prevent the muscle wasting that occurs with hormone therapy.

 

Disease Progression

Developing the Resources

Our team is one of a few in the world conducting “rapid autopsies” on deceased prostate cancer patients. Similar to cadaveric transplant organ acquisition, this procedure allows us to harvest tissue otherwise unavailable to researchers, especially metastases to the bone. These biospecimens have helped investigators learn more about the molecular profiles of the kinds of cancers that kill. We’ve also collected one of the world’s largest blood and tissue banks for prostate cancer, which is essential for developing and stratifying prostate cancers into distinct categories amenable to specific therapies.

A diverse team of scientists is developing highly specialized, genetically engineered mouse models to understand the molecular mechanisms that cause prostate cancer to develop and progress.

Researchers have established more than 25 human prostate cancer lines that grow in specialized immune-suppressed mice, allowing researchers around the globe to conduct studies of cancer progression and critically test new therapies prior to their introduction in patients.

Circulating Cancer Cells

Our researchers have improved methods for capturing prostate cancer cells in the blood and bone marrow. Studies of these cells have identified genetic abnormalities that may indicate how prostate cancer cells metastasize to the bone. Further analysis of these cells could provide opportunities for targeting and preventing bone metastasis, reducing mortality rates.

Studies on Bone

Prostate cancer spreads and grows primarily in bone. We’re world leaders in understanding the relationship between bone metabolism and prostate cancer growth.

Hormone Studies

Reducing blood levels of testosterone and other androgens that come from the testis can temporarily suppress tumor growth. In determining why the effect is temporary, researchers studied rapid autopsy tissue and animal models. They discovered the cancer cells gradually develop the capacity to produce their own androgens. These findings can inform the development of a new group of more effective anti-hormone drugs.

Researchers have shown how insulin-like growth factor, or IGF, and similar hormones help prostate cancer grow. Based on the effectiveness of new therapies in animals, our researchers were the first to develop in-man studies targeting this IGF pathway.

New Therapies

Clinical Trials

All new therapies, biomarkers or other medical discoveries are tested in patients through clinical trials. This complex and demanding process requires a high degree of compassion and medical expertise, as well as communication and organizational skills.

We have two integrated clinical trials teams: one focused on developing and testing therapies for advanced disease; the other developing and testing therapies designed to be used with surgery and radiotherapy for treating localized prostate cancers.

Many of the clinical trials are unique to Seattle. Several new studies involve the first evaluation of new therapeutic treatments in people. Other trials are conducted with leading national clinical trials groups involving the major cancer centers in the United States and abroad.

Our trials include some of the most innovative therapies under evaluation, including one of 10 National Cancer Institute-funded prostate cancer Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE). As a result, our physicians participate in new therapy trials often available only to that group, allowing patients to receive new treatments as quickly as possible.

IPCR researchers are also members of the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium and have access to many trials conducted by this special group of 12 leading prostate cancer centers in the United States.

Our Clinical Trial Accomplishments

Molecular studies in localized disease:

  • Neoadjuvant therapies have been slow to reach many cancer patients because their success could only be judged after many years of follow-up. Our researchers helped pioneer a faster approach to evaluating these therapies. At the time of the primary surgery or before radiation therapy, physicians take a cancer specimen for molecular analysis. Scientists can evaluate efficacy more quickly by looking at the way molecules in the cancer specimen react to the therapy.
  • The team has conducted large neoadjuvant molecular studies of chemotherapy drugs and newer hormone therapies. Many more molecular neoadjuvant studies are in the planning stages.
  • Every tumor (and patient) has unique characteristics, dictated by gene variations. The molecular analyses of cancers provide an opportunity for researchers to develop a personalized approach to treating and following a patient’s particular cancer.

Innovative treatments for advanced disease:

  • Suppressing testosterone and administering chemotherapy prolong survival for men with advanced prostate cancer, but most cancers eventually develop resistance to these interventions. IPCR investigators have conducted Phase I, first-in-human trials designed to block tumors’ resistance mechanisms.
  • Encouraging results from novel studies targeting the Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 Receptor and clusterin have led to clinical trials designed to improve the longevity of men with advanced prostate cancer.
  • Our teams also participate in trials involving therapies developed elsewhere, such as Provenge, abiraterone and MDV-3100.
     

Patient Video Series

Exercise can help those living with prostate cancer to overcome the side effects of androgen-deprivation therapy, and it may have helpful effects on cancer biology. Yet many people with prostate cancer aren’t sure how to start an exercise routine. Fred Hutch experts and local patients created a series of videos to show people with prostate cancer how to safely exercise at home to improve their health.

Featured Programs

Dr. John lLe working in his lab

ACT-SMART Initiative

This initiative focuses on creating personalized approaches to prostate cancer, including prevention, appropriate treatment strategies, and increased survival rates.

Dr. Heather cheng with prostate cancer patient

GENTleMEN Study

This study improves access to genetic services by providing free testing and counseling to men with advanced prostate cancer.

Latest IPCR News

More IPCR News
Award will fund research into new metastatic prostate cancer therapies Physician-scientist Dr. John Lee and his team will use $750K Kleberg Foundation grant to pursue new treatments, including immunotherapy October 21, 2022
Dr. Anat Zimmer receives AAUW fellowship Fred Hutch computational biologist who relocated from Israel will receive support while investigating cancer genomics October 13, 2022
Dr. Ruth Etzioni receives $7.4M NCI grant to assess new cancer diagnostics Award will provide long-term support to investigate accuracy of multi-cancer liquid biopsies and other new technology October 6, 2022
Dr. Andrew Hsieh elected member of American Society for Clinical Investigation Physician-scientist demonstrated central role protein synthesis plays in cancer February 9, 2022

Location

The IPCR program is located at Fred Hutch's South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle.

Mailing address:
Institute for Prostate Cancer Research
1100 Fairview Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

Phone: 206.667.3042

Donations

Director, Philanthropic Gifts
Michael Rubin
Phone: 206.667.5377
mrubin@fredhutch.org

Last Modified, November 08, 2022