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.
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.
Call for applications
Taubman Institute to offer six new scholar grants
The institute is accepting applications through Dec. 1 for its flagshop Taubman Scholar grant program, which is open to clinician-scientists on the U-M Medical School Faculty. Grants are $150,000 per year for three years.
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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
Is there a link between tonsils and psoriasis?
Trial tested the effect of tonsillectomy on the skin disease
Taubman Emerging Scholar Dr. Johann Gudjonsson and colleagues found that people who had their tonsils removed showed improvment.
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Fall Visiting Professor Lectures schedule
Distinguished guest speakers include experts in lung, muscle and nerve diseases
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Breast cancer clinical trial enrolling patients
Research by Taubman Scholar Dr. Max Wicha into breast cancer stem cells is the basis for a new human clinical trial of the drug Reparixin, which scientists hope will curb the growth of the tumor-fueling cells.