May 2012

Maria Prencipe Wins Oral Lab Presentation at Young Investigators Symposium

Tue, 22 May 12 09:00

Maria PrencipeResearch by young investigators based at our clinical sites is celebrated annually with the Dublin Academic Medical Centre Young Investigator Research Symposium.  The meeting showcases the breadth of current laboratory and clinical research across both Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and St Vincent's University Hospital and is now well established as a highlight in the School's research communication calendar. In this article, Dr. Maria Prencipe, winner of the Young Investigators Research Symposium 2012 laboratory-based oral presentation award, describes the focus and potential clinical application of her research into treatment-resistant prostate cancer cells. Maria currently works as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor William Watson’s prostate cancer research group, based at the Conway Institute, UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science.

Research: Identification of transcription factors associated with castration-resistance: is the Serum Responsive Factor a potential therapeutic target?

Prostate cancer is the most common non-cutaneus solid organ malignancy among men. While early detection allows for curative therapies, advanced disease represents a challenge to treat. with no effective treatment options available - leading to the patient’s death within 6-18 months after its development.

The objective of my research project is to examine the mechanisms by which advanced prostate cancer cells develop resistance to the treatments currently available in the clinic, and to identify novel and more effective targets for therapeutic manipulation.

Research and Clinical Application

Previous studies by our laboratory and others have demonstrated that many changes occur in the cancer cells that do not die in response to therapy. Despite this understanding, it is difficult to manipulate these changes and translate our understanding to more effective clinical approaches. Therefore, we  set out to investigate if targeting the upstream factors that regulate them might constitute a more appropriate therapeutic approach.

Using innovative bioinformatics techniques, we have identified markers associated with advanced disease, which we aim to manipulate in order to induce prostate cancer cells’ death. One interesting marker that we have identified is called Serum Response Factor (SRF). We have shown that SRF is increased in patients with advanced prostate cancer and that its manipulation in the laboratory leads to decreased proliferation of cancer cells. Therefore, SRF could be a promising target for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.

The potential clinical application of this research is the development of new and more effective drugs for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, which would benefit patients for whom current therapies have failed. This study will advance the field of research through a more effective understanding of resistance mechanisms. The findings will similarly contribute to and open new research strands that aim to discover novel and more effective targets for therapeutic manipulation in advanced prostate cancer.   

Profile: Dr. Maria Prencipe

Maria Prencipe was awarded her Degree in Biology with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from L’Aquila University, Italy. After 3 years as a research assistant at “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza”, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, she moved to Ireland where she was awarded her PhD from the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, studying the mechanisms of resistance to Taxane treatment in breast and ovarian cancer under the supervision of Dr. Amanda McCann. As a Postdoctoral Fellow in Prof. William Watson’s laboratory, Maria is currently involved in the study of the mechanisms of resistance to advanced prostate cancer treatments. 

Prostate Cancer Research at University College Dublin

UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science is a leading contributor in the field of prostate cancer research in Ireland and at international level. The School conducts research in this area within the multi-site Prostate Cancer Research Consortium under the leadership of Professor William Watson.