Researchers awarded $2 million grant from National Cancer Institute

Christine Mona, PhD
Dr. Christine Mona

Researchers from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have been awarded a $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to design better combination therapies that target the immune system to treat metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, which continues to spread even when testosterone levels are significantly reduced.

Dr. Christine Mona, assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, Dr. Caius Radu, professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, and Dr. Johannes Czernin, chief of the Ahmanson Translational Theranostics Division at UCLA, will focus on improving prostate-specific membrane antigen-targeted radiopharmaceutical therapy, or PSMA-RPT, which targets a protein that is overexpressed on the surface of prostate cancer cells.

While the therapy has shown some benefits in extending survival, relapses almost always occur. The researchers aim to better understand the genetic, molecular and immunological factors that determine how tumors respond to the therapy in order to improve its effectiveness.

“We are hoping this work will provide new insights into the relationship between mutational status, radioligand-induced immunogenicity, tumor-induced resistance mechanisms, and immune response pathways activation,” Mona said. “Ultimately, we believe this knowledge can be used to design better rational combination therapies that will enhance the efficacy of PSMA-RPT in treating patients with this hard-to-treat cancer.”