Kenneth J. Pienta, M.D.
Professor of Internal Medicine and of Urology
Director of Experimental Therapeutics, Michigan Center for Translational Pathology
Principal Investigator, Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer Metastasis and Therapeutic Strategies
Work in Kenneth Pienta’s laboratory focuses on understanding the biology of prostate cancer metastasis — how cancer cells interact with normal cells of the body as they develop a primary tumor and then spread to other sites in the body. He studies this interaction between the normal cells and the cancer cells using principles borrowed from the science of ecology, and believes that by thinking of tumors as ecosystems we can better understand how to treat cancer. His laboratory has especially focused on studying how cancer cells metastasize to bone and to target the resulting metastatic tumors for therapy.
A central question in cancer biology, diagnosis and treatment remains how cancers have the ability to invade and survive in the bone marrow. Pienta and his colleagues believe that metastatic prostate cancers behave like an invasive species attacking a new environment and target and compete with hematopoietic stem cells — cells that reside in bone marrow that make a person’s red and white blood cells — for space in the bone marrow where the hematopoietic cells normally reside. Disseminated tumor cells can hide in marrow for years — where they slowly proliferate — and where humans are slowly and secretly losing the cancer battle.
This is a powerful new observation that opens up entire new biologic questions in understanding cancer metastasis, suggests new diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, and points to new targets for therapy - all actively being worked on in the laboratory.
10 Taubman Scholars named to "Best Doctors in America" list
They're among 493 U-M physicians to receive the honor from their peers
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People who care
ALS Association Michigan Chapter honors institute
Founder A. Alfred Taubman and Director Dr. Eva Feldman to receive inaugural award at April 3 gala
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U-M offers new early detection prostate cancer test
Research by Taubman Scholar Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan has let to the development of a new test for prostate cancer that is far more accurate than the standard PSA test, the University of Michigan has announced.
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news & events
New Taubman Prize trophy debuts
The new trophy for the Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Research, which was designed in consultation with institute founder Mr. A. Alfred Taubman, was presented at the institute's Oct. 11 symposium. The modern sculpture was created using a novel 3D printing technique.
Drug cuts risk of bone-marrow transplant side effect
Taubman Emerging Scholar Sung Won Choi, M.D., is the lead author of a new study that finds a new way to help prevent graft-vs-host disease in cancer patients receiving bone-marrow transplants.
Study: Two types of cancer stem cells lead to metastasis
Breast cancer stem cells exist in two different states and each state plays a role in how cancer spreads, according to a new study published by Taubman Senior Scholar Dr. Max Wicha.