Neha Vapiwala, MD, one of two Philadelphia researchers to win to support prostate cancer research efforts

April 14, 2010

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Two Philadelphiacancer researchers are among 21 scientists sharing $4.5 million in grants from the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the California-based foundation said Tuesday.

Robert Den, of Thomas Jefferson University's Kimmel Cancer Center, won a three-year $225,000 grant - to be matched by Jefferson.

Den's work is aimed at establishing a biomarker for radiation sensitivity that would allow physicians to better select prostate cancer patients with a higher likelihood of being cured by radiation treatment.

Neha Vapiwala, of the University of Pennsylvania, won a similar $225,000, three-year grant, also to be matched by Penn.

Vapiwala’s research is aimed at discovering biomarkers for resistance or positive response to radiation therapy.

- Reid Kanaley

More on Dr. Vapiwala's research - Approximately 30% of patients treated for what is believed to be localized, non-metastatic prostate cancer will progress to advanced disease. One challenge is to identify the mechanisms of therapy resistance and to discover biomarkers predictive of a negative clinical outcome. Dr. Vapiwala's research goal is to develop methods to obtain directed prostate tissue biopsies at the time of fiducial placement (a reference mark inserted for radiation therapy) in prostate cancer patients who will undergo radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer. The biopsies will be analyzed using molecular biology tools to identify prognostic biomarkers of therapy response and/or resistance. The discovery of such biomarkers would be an invaluable tool for early stage clinical testing designed to evaluate novel radiosensitizing agents (compounds that enhance the effect of radiation therapy). Radiosensitizing agents are vital for enhancing the effectiveness of radiation therapy and preventing later disease progression.