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UCLA Institute of Urologic Oncology


Prostate Cancer

Program Director:    Robert Reiter, MD                                                                                  


According to the American Cancer Society, about 241,740 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 and about 28,000 will die from this disease.  Prostate cancer is the most common solid tumor found in American men.  One in every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. 

Prostate cancer typically begins without any outward symptoms.  The most common type of cancer found in men, prostate cancer usually begins without symptoms.  The chances of surviving prostate cancer are greatly improved with early detection and treatment.  The IUO and UCLA's Prostate Cancer Program offer the latest and most advanced care for both early and late stage prostate cancer.  Our faculty members are fellowship trained in urologic oncology and have been consistently ranked among the top prostate cancer practitioners in the United States. UCLA urologists have been pioneers in developing new innovations and technologies leading to safer and more effective treatments for patients.

For patients with slow-growing tumors and in older patients with more serious health conditions, UCLA offers the option of Active Surveillance.  UCLA's prostate cancer survival rates and measurements of treatment efficacy, including surgical margins and the lowest recordable PSA value, are among the best in the nation. Therefore, we monitor our results closely with outcomes databases and studies regarding the quality of life our patients achieve after treatment in order to improve the quality of our care and in order to better inform patients about the risk and benefits of all treatments.

Because of the extensive basic and translational research done at UCLA in prostate cancer, we are actively studying new forms of treatment for patients with high-risk, locally advanced and metastatic prostate cancers. These include studies of molecularly targeted small molecules and antibodies, the latest in drugs that are able to target the genetic changes in an individual's tumors while sparing normal tissues. We are also on the leading edge of studies of nutrition and alternative medicines for prostate cancer.

The UCLA Prostate Cancer Program is the only program in Southern California and one of only three programs in the western U.S to be designated a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) by the National Cancer Institute.  With this distinction, UCLA earned an $11.5 million grant to enhance the program's ability to integrate laboratory and clinical researchers in a joint effort to improve detection, treatment and prevention of prostate cancer.

Highlights:  Research Achievements at UCLA Prostate Cancer Program

  • One of only 10 institutions in the United States funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Special Program of Research Excellence in Prostate Cancer (SPORE).
  • First to clone the basic elements (promoter and enhancer) of the PSA gene. (UCLA Patent; licensed to a biotechnology company.)
  • Translation of the PSA gene discovery to the development of the first gene therapy directed exclusively to prostate cancer. (Supported by multi-year National Institutes of Health (NIH)/NCI and Department of Defense research grants.)
  • First to inject an immune activator (Interleuken-2) gene directly to the prostate of patients prior to radical prostatectomy (Leuvectin, Vical Corp.); the gene expression in the prostate was then molecularly analyzed in the laboratory, and the research findings were published in the Gene Therapy Journal.
      Development of an experimental tumor model designed in the laboratory for use in pre-clinical testing: CL 1 & 2.  (Findings published in the Cancer Research Journal.)
  • Identification of a new marker and potential molecular target for prostate cancer treatment: PSCA; a drug based on this discovery is being tested in clinical trials.
  • The UCLA Prostate Cancer Index, developed by Mark Litwin, MD, MPH, has become the gold standard worldwide in measuring outcomes and quality of life in prostate cancer survivors. The UCLA Prostate Cancer Index is now in use in over 200 studies throughout North America and has been translated into Spanish, Dutch, and Japanese for cross-cultural use. Dr. Litwin 's research includes medical outcomes assessment, health-related quality of life, urologic oncology, cost-efficacy and resource utilization in urological care, and patient preferences. He published the first validated instrument to assess disease-targeted health-related quality of life in men treated for prostate cancer and has been an international leader in this area. His research is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, American Cancer Society, California Department of Health Services, and other organizations.
  • Drs. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, Jorge Barrio, Simon Cherry, Harvey Herschman, Michael Phelps and Nagichettiar Satyamurthy were the first to develop a novel technology that essentially renders the body transparent and allows physicians to determine whether gene therapies reach targeted cells and work as they should. Using a specially designed "reporter" gene and positron emission tomography (PET) scanners to establish pictures of gene therapies at work in the body, UCLA researchers test the tracking system in prostate cancer patients and work with researchers at other institutions to help them evaluate other gene therapy studies for cancer patients.
  • Dr. Charles Sawyers developed the first animal model for prostate cancer. Previously, there was no way to grow prostate cancer tumor cells outside a patient's body. The ability to grow those cells in animals provided researchers with a crucial new tool.



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