2002

Thomas S. Griffith, PhD

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN Associate Professor, Institute for Prostate and Urologic Cancers

Research Focus: Immunotheraphy & Cancer Vaccines

Cancer Type: Prostate Cancer

Award: Young Investigator

Current Research:

Dr. Griffith’s research has moved on in looking at the application of the TRAIL gene and other T-cell therapies in treating all types of cancer, not just prostate cancer. His lab has developed a method of inducing tumor cell death through the administration of full-length TRAIL cDNA (called Ad-TRAIL) into cells through the use of non-replicative adenoviral vectors. Incorporating this vector into the tumor cells induces apoptosis, or cell death. This research seems to be making some promising strides and an extremely beneficial finding has been that the use of TRAIL is nontoxic against normal cells and tissues unlike other similar genes that have been employed in the same way. Dr. Griffith and his lab plan on continuing their work with the TRAIL gene as well as investigating how apoptotic (dying) cells can have an impact on the immune response.

Prostate Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States. We are studying and testing a new means of inhibiting the formation of prostate tumors, using an agent called TRAIL to induce the death of tumor cells. The TRAIL gene is transferred into a cell with Ad5-TRAIL, a genetically engineered virus known as a viral vector. The vector used the cell’s own machinery to produce the TRAIL protein and induce tumor cell death. Studies with laboratory animals have shown that this form of gene therapy results in the death of tumor cells. My lab currently is studying Ad5-TRAIL’s ability to activate the immune system’s anti-tumor responses. Tumor cells can deceive the body’s immune system into perceiving them as normal cells rather than foreign invaders, but introducing genes into a tumor can counteract this. Determining the effect of Ad5-Trail-induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) on the activation of the immune system in patients with localized prostate cancer is the next step in this ongoing research, and is anticipated to begin this year. The goal is to use this type of gene therapy to achieve tumor rejection, and tumor-free survival for the patients.

At the time of the award, Dr. Griffith was Associate Professor of Urology at University of Iowa.

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