Dr Rendong Yang - The Hormel Institute

U.S. Department of Defense provides funding for innovative research

Dr. Rendong Yang, head of the Computational Cancer Genomics lab at The Hormel Institute University of Minnesota, received an $895,852 grant from the national Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program Idea Development Award to support his innovative prostate cancer.  Research on the grant will be done in collaboration with Dr. Scott Dehm from Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota and collaborators from Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Yang’s research, titled “Integrative Analysis of Exitrons in Metastatic Prostate Cancer” aims to discover genetic markers that could help doctors predict which prostate cancer patients are likely to progress to later stages of the disease, and could lead to the development of new therapies for patients whose prostate cancer has already metastasized, or spread. A seed grant from Austin’s annual “Bowling for the Battle” prostate cancer research fundraiser provided the important early data used to obtain this major grant.

“Our goal in this proposal is to understand the role of exitrons (a newly discovered type of RNA alternative splicing) in prostate cancer progression, investigate the potential use of exitron expression as a biomarker, and identify novel approaches for the treatment of a lethal form of advanced prostate cancer,” shared Dr. Yang. “Ultimately, our goal is to translate our discoveries into personalized patient care to help improve health and extend lives.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, after skin cancer. While prostate cancer can be very treatable, it is still the second highest cause of cancer death in American men. Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, or mCRPC, is the most serious and advanced stage of prostate cancer. Currently, no cure exists for prostate cancers that have reached this stage. There is an urgent need to find genetic factors that drive prostate cancer progression so we can start to predict poor survival or drug resistance, and eventually develop new therapeutic strategies to treat mCRPC.

The DoD Idea Development Award is awarded to scientists to support new ideas and innovative approaches to prostate cancer research. Dr. Yang’s research will develop computational algorithms using The Hormel Institute’s supercomputers to look at large amounts of data to find what causes exitrons to exist, how they work, and what their role is in mCRPC.

It is expected that in the near-term this research will translate into predictive biomarkers that can help doctors determine a patient’s risks. In the longer term, this research will inform the design of clinical trials for targeted therapy and immunotherapeutics. The identification of exitron-derived neoantigens may lead to personalized cancer vaccine development to treat mCRPC.

Dr. Yang explains, “We anticipate our work will be immediately helpful to understand the biology of prostate cancer and to evaluate the potential of exitrons as predictive or prognostic biomarkers.”