Creating New Tools to Guide Personalized Therapy in Advanced Prostate Cancer

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey investigator awarded $450K for research
September 14, 2015

Justin M. Drake, PhDNew Brunswick, N.J. – Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey researcher Justin Drake, PhD, has been awarded $450,000 in grants to support a pair of three-year projects aimed at developing biomarkers to predict disease progression and guide treatment strategies for advanced prostate cancer using a combination of laboratory cancer models, computational and targeted mass spectrometry approaches.  

“One of the biggest challenges during cancer treatment is to define the patient subsets that will best respond to appropriate therapies.  In prostate cancer, all patients are essentially treated the same and there are currently no subtypes to stratify for therapy purposes.  This is a major clinical problem,” says Dr. Drake, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “The development of new biomarkers that can either predict disease progression or stratify patients for effective personalized therapy is urgently needed.”

Unlike DNA sequencing which analyzes entire genes, mass spectrometry is an analytical laboratory technique that drills down further to identify and measure molecules, proteins, and protein alterations. Utilizing clinical tissue, Drake aims to generate up to 100 unique biomarkers geared toward a type of activated enzyme (kinase) that regulates cellular pathways in prostate cancers  resistant to hormone therapy and have spread beyond the prostate (metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer).  Drake notes it is a targeted approach “that affords the ability to look at hundreds of proteins at once with the potential to repurpose several FDA approved drugs based on our results.”

“By determining the activation patterns of kinases that can be targeted with drugs in advanced prostate cancer, we can improve our understanding of the signaling pathways that drive lethal disease and identify new therapeutic targets to halt progression,” he notes.  The work will be supported by a $225,000 Department of Defense Office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program Idea Development Award for New Investigators (W81XWH-14-PCRP-IDA).

Related research supported by a $225,000 Young Investigator Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation aims to use existing data sets from castrate-resistant prostate cancer tissue samples to identify prominent kinases and kinase pathway targets for therapy. Drake also will evaluate the activation state of these kinases and test their function in the development of castrate-resistant prostate cancer in laboratory models with the goal to move the most promising results into human clinical trials.

“Kinase pathways that are validated from this study would strongly advocate for the evaluation of patients’ tumors based on these kinase activation profiles. This examination may be clinically valuable as we begin to develop personalized medicine strategies that combine currently available clinical inhibitors that could significantly contribute to the survival and well-being of this population of patients,” notes Drake.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. Physician-scientists at the Cancer Institute engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 848-932-3637 or visit Follow us on Facebook at

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center and Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center. Affiliate Hospitals: JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. 

Michele Fisher


precision medicine at Rutgers Cancer Institute







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