March 2014

MMI Award for Prostate Cancer Research

Sun, 30 March 14 10:00

SMMS PhD student, Karen Hanrahan (Watson group) from the UCD Conway Institute won the award for best Molecular Medicine Ireland Clinical & Translational Research Scholars Programme (CTRSP) research poster at the recent annual scientific meeting in the Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin.

Image: Prof Larry Egan, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, NUI Galway presents Karen Hanrahan (UCD) with her award for best CTRS poster presentation entitled, 'Investigating the Role of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Differential Apoptotic Susceptibility in Advanced Docetaxel-Resistant Prostate Cancer'. Image: Prof Larry Egan, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, NUI Galway presents Karen Hanrahan (UCD) with her award for best CTRS poster presentation entitled, 'Investigating the Role of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Differential Apoptotic Susceptibility in Advanced Docetaxel-Resistant Prostate Cancer'.

‌When prostate cancer is detected early in patients, surgery and radiation therapy are effective treatments. Patients with locally advanced and metastatic prostate cancer are treated with hormone depletion but this will fail and lead to a castrate resistant phenotype.

Docetaxel chemotherapy is the gold standard treatment for castrate-resistant prostate cancer but again patients will develop resistance over time or may not respond to this treatment.

Karen’s research project involves analysing docetaxel-resistant prostate cancer cell lines in the laboratory to identify pathways to explain how and why resistance develops. These pathways are then validated in patient samples and used to identify alternate ways to treat these patients.

She is particularly interested in the role played by the process of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in the development of resistance. In EMT, epithelial cells lose properties such as cell-cell adhesion in order to invade, migrate and become mesenchymal cells.

While EMT is a feature of the normal development of the embryo, it is also involved in wound healing and can initiate metastasis in cancer. 

“We think EMT might be a central mechanism by which prostate cancer cells evade cell death. We exposed our docetaxel-resistant prostate cancer cell lines to various cell death triggers and found different levels of susceptibility. This will now guide us in our efforts to find effective targets.",

said Karen Hanrahan.

“This study is part of our overall research objectives within the cancer theme of the Conway Institute to stratify patients into appropriate treatments and translate our ideas into clinical utility impacting on patient outcomes”

said Karen’s PhD project supervisor, Conway Fellow, Professor William Watson from UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science.