Dr. Saleem receives major grant from National Cancer Institute for 5-year study

Dr. M. Saleem Bhat - The Hormel Institute

More than $1.7 million has been awarded to The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota for research aimed to develop innovative new treatment options for prostate cancer.

Dr. Mohammad Saleem (Bhat), leader of the Molecular Chemoprevention & Therapeutics research section at The Hormel Institute, received a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, part of the federal National Institute of Health, to continue work on developing new treatment options, particularly when prostate cancer metastasizes.

Metastasis is a process that involves the dissemination of cancerous cells from primary tissue (prostate) to distant organs, such as bones or the liver. This dissemination causes secondary tumors to form at new sites in the body. These tumors are often challenging to treat due to frequent association with resistance to existing drugs in chemotherapy.

There are few treatment options for the metastatic prostate cancer disease, primarily due to a lack of knowledge about the molecular pathway that drives the phenomenon of metastasis at the cellular level. This study and the identification of molecular mechanisms underlying metastasis could lead to the identification of new targets for new drugs to treat this lethal disease.

Dr. Saleem’s team has identified such a molecular mechanism. Using cutting edge technology, such as genetically engineering tumor cells and super computer-based molecular docking, Dr. Saleem’s team proved that S100A4, a calcium-binding protein, is increased during progressive stages of prostate cancer development. This protein regulates the migration of metastatic prostate tumor cells.

“By targeting S100A4 we could inhibit metastasis in genetically engineered models and identified a novel small molecule inhibitor of S100A4 protein,” said Saleem. “The initial testing of this inhibitor has provided a rationale to test it under large scale experimental conditions.”

Furthermore, the team will test a neutralizing antibody against this protein at The Hormel Institute through further testing.  Since very few options are available to treat metastatic prostate cancer, the successful outcome of this project will identify a new target-based approach to prevent and treat the disease in men.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States after skin cancer and is the second-leading cause of death from cancer in men. The disease often does not have early symptoms and typically grows slowly, according to the National Cancer Institute.

For those interested in supporting research, The Hormel Institute’s Executive Director Dr. Zigang Dong established a special fund for donations to go specifically toward prostate cancer research following the successful “Bowling for the Battle” prostate cancer research fundraiser started by Tom and Doreen Gillard in 2015. As with any gift to The Hormel Institute, 100 percent of each donation directly funds cancer research.