Prostate Cancer Research

Study 1:  Anti-Tumor Effects of Seaweed in Combating Prostate Cancer

UF Department of Urology physicians are collaborating with Hendrik Luesch, PhD, Professor and Chairman of Medicinal Chemistry and a pharmaceutical researcher in natural product drug discovery and development at the University of Florida who has discovered that local varieties of seaweed found off the coast of Florida may have the potential to prevent the development of prostate cancer. Seaweed is common in the diet of individuals from many Asian countries, which coincidentally have a lower risk of prostate cancer than Western countries. This group has discovered that sea lettuce, a common green alga, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms that act along one of the key molecular pathways in prostate cancer development. Future studies are underway to define the proper concentration and preparation of seaweed species relevant to anti-tumor effects and ultimately determine the dosage, potency, and effectiveness in animal and human studies.

Study 2:  Imaging the Prostate Nerves Responsible for Sexual Function

Preservation of the cavernous nerves during radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer is critical in preserving a man’s ability to have spontaneous erections following surgery. These nerves exist as two bundles of microscopic nerve fibers that course along the surface of the bladder, prostate gland, and urethra along with blood vessels and are called the neurovascular bundles. Their microscopic nature makes it difficult to predict the true anatomic course and location of these nerves from one individual patient to another. These observations, at least in part, may explain the wide variability in reported potency rates following prostatectomy (21-86%). UF researchers are studying the effect of Magnetic Resonance Diffusion Tensor Imaging (MR-DTI) as a novel imaging technology that may help to identify a “road map” of the precise anatomic course of the neurovascular bundle prior to surgical intervention. If MR-DTI can identify preoperatively the correct anatomic course of the neurovascular bundle, it would provide great insight into the variability between individual patients, as well as, perhaps provide an intraoperative guide for nerve preservation during radical prostatectomy (Figure 1).

Study 3:  Improving Cancer Detection and Surveillance with Multi-parametric MRI

Studies are underway in our department investigating the use of multi-parametric MRI imaging to better localize cancer within the prostate gland. Images obtained by MRI can demonstrate regions that are concerning for cancer. These images are then fused with standard ultrasound views to improve targeting and sampling of these specific areas during prostate needle biopsies.

This may have significant implications on:

  • earlier and non-invasive detection of prostate cancer
  • improved accuracy of image-guided prostate biopsies in men with elevated PSA or recurrence of cancer following radiation or alternative therapies
  • improved surveillance and reduced biopsies in men on active surveillance
  • Our team is collaborating with UF radiologists to study how MRI may play a critical role improving prostate cancer detection and care

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