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Grant bolsters Kirschner’s prostate cancer research

Feb. 5, 2015, 9:28 AM

Austin Kirschner, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Radiation Oncology and Cancer Biology, has received the Urology Care Foundation Research Scholars Award for the study of advanced prostate cancer.

Austin Kirschner, M.D., Ph.D.

The $40,000 grant is funded by the American Urological Association, which has given assistance to more than 525 early career researchers.

“I am very honored to receive this important award in support of research to help men with difficult-to-treat forms of prostate cancer,” said Kirschner, who joined the Vanderbilt University faculty in 2014 after completing residency in Radiation Oncology that included postdoctoral research time encouraged by the American Board of Radiology Holman Research Pathway.

Kirschner is studying the mechanisms that allow prostate cancer that has already spread beyond the prostate gland to resist two commonly used therapies — androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) which blocks the male hormone testosterone, and the chemotherapy docetaxel.

The focus of this study is a protein (kinase) called PIM1, which influences pathways that affect cancer cells’ ability to survive, proliferate and metastasize to distant parts of the body, and to resist various forms of treatment.

Kirschner hopes to define the interaction between PIM1 and the androgen receptor pathway and its role in tumor resistance to ADT. He is also studying how PIM1 influences tumors to develop resistance to docetaxel.

“Several PIM1 inhibitor drugs are being developed and some are already in early phase clinical trials,” explained Kirschner. “If my research identifies key mechanisms of tumor resistance to treatment, it may lead to clinical trials specifically aimed at the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer.”

The Urology Care Foundation Research Scholars Award is designed to enhance career development by providing protected research time along with mentorship for a urological research project.

Kirschner’s mentorship committee includes Robert Matusik, Ph.D., William L. Bray Professor of Urology, Michael Freeman, Ph.D., interim chair of Radiation Oncology, and Sarki Abdulkadir, M.D., Ph.D., former Vanderbilt associate professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and of Cancer Biology, who is now a professor in Urology and Pathology at Northwestern University, Chicago.

Kirschner received his B.A. in Biochemistry and M.S. in Chemistry from New York University, and earned his M.D. and Ph.D. at Northwestern University. He completed an internship at Northshore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois and his residency in Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt.

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