Two McMaster researchers awarded Movember Discovery Grants

By Amanda Boundris, November 14, 2014
    Mo bros: Gurmit Singh (left), a professor of pathology and molecular medicine, and Khalid Al-Nedawi, an assistant professor of medicine, are among 26 Canadian researchers awarded grants by Prostate Cancer Canada that are funded by the Movember Foundation. Each researcher will receive up to $200,000 over a two-year term.

McMaster researchers working on depression and hormone-therapy resistance in prostate cancer patients have been awarded Movember Discovery Grants.

The funding comes from donations collected by men growing mustaches during the annual fundraising drive throughout November.

Gurmit Singh, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine, and Khalid Al-Nedawi, an assistant professor of medicine, are among 26 Canadian researchers awarded grants by Prostate Cancer Canada that are funded by the Movember Foundation.

Each researcher will receive up to $200,000 over a two-year term. The Foundation’s funding allows both junior investigators at the beginning of their research careers and more established investigators to explore new areas in prostate cancer research.

Singh and his team are developing an animal model to study depression caused by prostate cancer and, interestingly, no animal models for cancer-induced depression currently exist, he said.

Quality of life for cancer patients is very important and it appears that the disease may have some biological linkages to depression, added Singh.

“Most studies focus on psycho-social aspects of depression, but we are investigating biological mechanisms that could provide novel agents for the treatment of cancer-induced depression,” he said. “These will be pioneering studies to identify how depression develops in prostate cancer patients.”

Stuart Edmonds, vice-president of research, health promotion and survivorship at Prostate Cancer Canada, said it is very promising to see so many projects with high potential receive funding this year. He made particular mention of Singh’s study.

“Projects like the one looking at prostate cancer and depression are incredibly innovative and important,” said Edmonds. “Findings from this particular study will be able to provide more help to patients’ mental health along with their physical health.”

Al-Nedawi and his team have found a new mechanism that may explain the resistance to hormone therapy by some prostate cancer patients.

“Hormone deprivation is the mainstay of prostate cancer treatment, but eventually prostate tumours become irresponsive to this therapy causing tumor recurrence and death,” said Al-Nedawi, who also received a Movember Discovery Grant in 2013.

The mechanism they are testing is initiated through small bubble-like vesicles called microvesicles. These vesicles may provide the means to predict the incidence of disease progression despite hormone therapy and to predict a patient’s responsiveness to given therapies, he said.

Al-Nedawi said: “The generous funding of this project by the Movember Foundation will enable my lab to keep working on the serious challenges posed by prostate cancer, and will eventually lead to new, better therapeutic approaches for patients and better quality of life for Canadians with prostate cancer.”