Researchers

Leadership & Administration

Pete Nelson, MD

SPORE PI

Pete Nelson is co-director of Core A (Leadership & Administration) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE and co-leader of Project 4 (Clinical Development of Therapeutic Strategies Targeting Damage Responses in the Prostate Tumor Microenvironment). Dr. Nelson is a full member of the Hutchinson Center, a professor in the University of Washington Medical School’s Medical Oncology Division, an adjunct professor in the UW’s Departments of Genome Sciences and Pathology, co-head of the Cancer Center’s Program in Prostate Cancer Research (PPCR), and Director of the Canary Foundation Prostate Cancer Program.

The focus of Dr. Nelson’s current work (in the Hutchinson Center’s Nelson lab) involves efforts to understand the process of prostate carcinogenesis with an aim toward developing diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic strategies. The major projects of the Nelson Lab are molecular analysis of therapies for early and late stage prostate carcinoma, characterization of the prostate androgen-response program, analysis of prostate serine protease function in metastatic prostate carcinoma, determining the role of damage responses in the tumor microenvironment that promote cancer growth and resistance to therapy. For more information about the Nelson Lab’s work, visit
http://pnelson.fhcrc.org.

Janet Stanford, PhD

SPORE Co-PI

Dr. Janet Stanford is a co-director of Core A (Leadership & Administration) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE, a co-leader of Project 1 (Molecular Predictors of Prostate Cancer Progression and Mortality), and co-head of the Program in Prostate Cancer Research (PPCR). Dr. Stanford is a member of the Hutchinson Center and a research professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. In the early 1990s, Stanford became one of the first Center researchers to focus on prostate cancer and today is recognized worldwide as an expert in the field. Her numerous studies and leadership of the program in prostate cancer research have illuminated many of the environmental, behavioral and genetic factors that can cause the disease. She also helps lead a nationwide research project of more than 2,000 people in more than 300 families exploring why prostate-cancer risk is higher in some families. Understanding the inherited genetic mutations for prostate cancer may provide new clues to help diagnose, treat, cure and even prevent it in future generations.

Dr. Stanford’s main research interests focus on hormonal, environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors that may alter cancer risk, cancer recurrence or progression, and cancer-specific mortality. The role of underlying genetic susceptibility based on rare, and high penetrance mutations as well as more common genetic variants of lower penetrance is a major focus of her research. As a cancer epidemiologist, Dr. Standford has been involved in the development, implementation, and analyses of research studies of the etiology and progression of several different types of cancer. However, her current concentration is on prostate cancer. The recent completion of two large population-based case-control studies of risk factors for prostate cancer has allowed Dr. Stanford and her research team to examine environmental/lifestyle exposures and genetic polymorphisms in candidate genes in relation to prostate cancer etiology and outcomes.

Paul Lange, MD

SPORE Co-PI

Paul Lange is co-director of Core A (Leadership & Administration) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE, a member of the SPORE Executive Committee, Emeritus Professor and former chair of Urology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and the Pritt Family Endowed Chair in prostate cancer research. Dr. Lange conducts a clinical practice in urologic cancer and is director of the Institute for Prostate Cancer Research (IPCR), a multidisciplinary research initiative of the UW and Fred Hutchinson Research Center. He has served on many editorial boards including the New England Journal of Medicine, and is internationally recognized for his clinical and experimental work in a variety of genitourinary cancers especially prostate and testis. He has authored or co-authored over 450 articles and three books. The research interests of Dr. Lange and the Genitourinary Cancer Research Laboratory of which he is a founding member at the University of Washington include the detection, isolation and characterization of disseminated prostate cancer cells, the biology of prostate cancer bone metastases, biospecimen acquisition, and prostate cancer xenograft generation.

Researchers & Clinicians

Joshi Alumkal, MD

Joshi Alumkal is co-leader of Project 2 (Targeting LSD1 in Prostate Cancer). Dr. Alumkal received his MD from Baylor College of Medicine, completed his Internal Medicine residency training at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and completed his Medical Oncology fellowship training at Johns Hopkins University. He was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at OHSU in 2007 and Molecular and Medical Genetics in 2010. He was named Co-Leader of the OHSU Prostate Cancer Research Program in 2012. Dr. Alumkal’s research centers on understanding critical transcriptional regulators that promote castration-resistance and prostate cancer progression. In his SPORE-funded research (Developmental Research Program award), Dr. Alumkal used gene expression profiles to identify the critical genes and pathways regulated by the LSD1 histone demethylase. He is now performing studies to determine how LSD1 functions in lethal prostate cancer and developing clinical trials that target LSD1 in patients with lethal prostate cancer. Dr. Alumkal has published numerous manuscripts related to lethal prostate cancer through his SPORE studies. He was selected to moderate the GU oral abstract session at the 2011 ASCO meeting. He was the recipient of an NIH KL2 Career Development Award and recently received a Kuni Foundation Clinical Scholar Award and a Prostate Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award. The latter builds on work from his SPORE Career Development Award. Finally, he is a member of the Pathway Targeting Group of the AACR/Prostate Cancer Foundation/Stand Up to Cancer-funded West Coast Prostate Cancer Dream Team.

Tomasz M. Beer, MD

Tomasz M. Beer is co-leader of Project 2 (Targeting LSD1 in Prostate Cancer), and is a member of the SPORE Executive Committee. He is Deputy Director, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, and Grover C. Bagby Endowed Chair for Prostate Cancer Research, Director, Prostate Cancer Research Program, and Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Oregon Health and Science University. He has a medical oncology practice and has pioneered the development of novel therapies such as using high-dose vitamin D with chemotherapy for advanced disease. Currently, Dr. Beer leads three international phase III clinical trials, including the PREVAIL study, that examines the androgen antagonist enzalutamide in men with metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer and recently demonstrated important survival and progression-free survival benefits. Dr. Beer participates in clinical trial groups such as Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG), and the DOD Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium (PCCTC). Dr. Beer serves as the SPORE’s institutional liaison for the DRP and CDP to OHSU and is a leader of the ‘Clinical Trials and Outcomes’ Translational Working Team.

Ruth Etzioni, PhD

Ruth Etzioni is an affiliate professor of biostatistics and health services at the University of Washington and a member of the Hutchinson Center. Dr. Etzioni directs Core C (Biostatistics) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE. Dr. Etzioni and her colleagues were among the first to formally evaluate the test’s ability to distinguish between true cancers and benign conditions. They have concluded that a variation on the PSA test that uses two types of PSA measurements could improve the test’s accuracy for men with borderline-normal total PSA levels, potentially leading to a significant drop in medical costs and complications for this group of men.  Etzioni and colleagues have also determined that roughly one-third of older men diagnosed with prostate cancer through the PSA test are “overdiagnosed” with the disease, meaning patients are receiving unnecessary surgeries or other treatments even though the disease isn’t likely to threaten their health. Dr. Etzioni’s work currently focuses on the development and implementation of statistical methods for prostate cancer studies. In the past, she has worked on assessing the efficacy of PSA screening from population studies, estimating the frequency of overdiagnosis associated with PSA, evaluating novel prostate cancer biomarkers, and tracking patterns and outcomes of prostate cancer care. Her work in prostate cancer surveillance is conducted as part of the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET). As leader of the biostatistics core for the Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE, Dr. Etzioni has developed methods for analyzing immunohistochemical studies, and combining results from microarray experiments, while working with SPORE investigators to select the most appropriate design and analysis approaches for a broad array of studies. She is an affiliate investigator on the Data Management Coordination Center for the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) and continues to work with EDRN statisticians on methods for biomarker development. In addition to these projects, her current interests include modeling the development of resistance to androgen ablation therapy.

Martin Gleave, MD

Martin Gleave is co-leader of Project 3 (Targeting SEMA3C in Castration Resistant Prostate Cancer) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE, and is a member of the SPORE Executive Committee. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Vancouver Prostate Centre, the Chief Executive Officer of PC-TRIADD, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Urologic Sciences at UBC, and the BC Leadership Chair in Prostate Cancer Research. Dr. Gleave is a clinician-scientist and urologic surgeon, and his major research focus involves the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms mediating progression of prostate cancer to its lethal stage of androgen independence, and use of this information to develop integrated multimodality therapies that specifically target these mechanisms. Dr. Gleave established a role for clusterin as a cancer-related cell survival protein involved in treatment resistance and developed an inhibitor, designated OGX-011, which improved efficacy of hormone- and chemo-therapies in prostate and other cancer models. He is the scientific founder of OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals Inc.

John L. Gore, MD

John Gore is co-director of Core D (Clinical) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE, and is an Assistant Professor in the Urology Department at the University of Washington, School of Medicine. He is also co-director of UroSCOAP, a regional urological quality collaborative in Washington State, which aims to improve prostate cancer care regionally. He graduated summa cum laude in chemistry and biology from the University of Minnesota, and earned his MD from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He completed his general and urologic surgery training at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Subsequently, Dr. Gore was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, training in health services research with a focus on quality of care, quality of life, and advanced econometric methods. He earned his Masters of Science in Health Services (MSHS) from the UCLA School of Public Health. Dr. Gore is one of only a handful of physician-scientists in the United States who are clinically trained in urologic oncology and fellowship trained in Health Services Research. Dr. Gore has focused his research on studying issues of access to care and quality of care for patients with urologic cancers.

Daniel Lin, MD

Daniel Lin is co-leader of Project 1 (Molecular Predictors of Prostate Cancer Progression and Mortality) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE. He is a Professor of Urology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Chief of Urologic Oncology, and a urologist specializing in genitourinary oncology, prostate cancer early detection and prevention. Dr. Lin’s research currently focuses on the molecular mechanisms of prostate carcinogenesis and biomarkers of prostate cancer progression. In addition to his SPORE research, Dr. Lin is co-PI on a nationwide phase III clinical trial administered through the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System investigating the efficacy of adjuvant chemotherapy to prevent progression in patients at high risk for relapse after radical prostatectomy; PI on a multi-institutional study (through the Canary Foundation) to discover and confirm biomarkers that predict aggressive disease in a prospective cohort of men on active surveillance; co-investigator on a study investigating the synergistic targeting of androgen receptor and androgen metabolism in prostate cancer; PI on a project to use an in vivo human intervention model to evaluate the mechanisms underlying the associations of sulforaphane and Brassica vegetables with reduced prostate cancer risk; co-investigator on a multi-center, retrospective tissue microarray (TMA) study to evaluate tissue biomarkers for their ability to predict recurrent prostate cancer at the time of radical prostatectomy (RP), and co-PI on a project to model active surveillance strategies to optimize outcomes and patient decision-making.

Bruce Montgomery, MD

Bruce Montgomery is co-leader of Project 4 (Clinical Development of Therapeutic Strategies Targeting Damage Responses in the Prostate Tumor Microenvironment) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE. Dr. Montgomery made the switch from laboratory research to patient care and clinical research because he wanted to work with the prostate cancer team at UW Medicine and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). “It was the opportunity to work with the amazing team at in the Program in Prostate Cancer Research, that first attracted me to doing research in prostate cancer and ultimately to doing clinical trials and treating patients,” says Dr. Montgomery. He divides his time between seeing patients at the SCCA Prostate Center and research. He is a medical oncologist, an associate professor at UW Medicine, and an associate member of the Hutchinson Center. Dr. Montgomery’s clinical expertise includes neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy, and resistance to hormonal and chemotherapy.

Elahe Mostaghel, MD, PhD

Mostaghel

Elahe Mostaghel is co-leader of Project 5 (Exploiting Mechanisms of Response and Resistance to Next Generation Androgen Pathway Antagonists) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE. She is an associate member in the Clinical Research Division at the Hutchinson Center and an associate professor in the Division of Medical Oncology at University of Washington, specializing in the care of men with advanced prostate and bladder cancer. Dr. Mostaghel completed her MD and PhD at Duke University, Internal Medicine residency training at the University of California at San Francisco, and Medical Oncology fellowship training at the UW/Hutchinson Center. Her research focuses on androgen and androgen receptor-related mechanisms of resistance that lead to prostate cancer progression, and how targeting these mechanisms can be exploited to optimize therapy. Current areas of research include pathways of intra-tumoral androgen steroidogenesis and metabolism, structural alterations in the androgen receptor, the activity of androgen transport proteins, and how alterations in these and other pathway may influence the sequencing of androgen and chemotherapy treatments. An important goal is to determine how patient and tumor-specific alterations in these proteins may be used to predict response to agents targeting these pathways.

Chris Ong, PhD

OngChris Ong is co-leader of Project 3 (Targeting SEMA3C in Castration Resistant Prostate Cancer) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE. He is an associate professor in the Department of Surgery with an associate appointment in the Department of Urologic Sciences at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. The primary focus of Dr. Ong’s research program is to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern the progression of prostate cancer from a state of androgen sensitivity to hormone independence with the hope of developing novel therapeutic strategies to prevent or delay the progression of prostate cancer to androgen independence. His primary focus has been on the PTEN tumor suppressor gene, which is among the most frequently mutated genes in cancer. One or both copies of PTEN is mutated in over 70% of primary prostate cancer and PTEN is completely inactivated in over 50% of advanced prostate cancer which correlates with a poor prognosis. Dr. Ong’s laboratory is currently studying how mutations of that gene confer protection of prostate cancer cells from cell death and resistance to chemotherapy as well as how loss of PTEN influences progression of prostate cancer cells to androgen independence. Implications from this research may lead to new therapeutic strategies designed to prevent or delay progression to androgen independence. Based on observations to date, Dr. Ong is testing the potential utility of several classes of small molecule drugs that act to down-modulate the PI3K survival pathway in the treatment of prostate cancer. These novel compounds have tremendous promise as lead compounds for development of therapeutics that target a primary defect associated with prostate cancer and other malignancies. Dr. Ong’s laboratory is also involved in the development of unique prostate tumor model systems which are used to characterize the function of a number of genes in normal and malignant prostate biology.

Stephen Plymate, MD

Steve Plymate is co-leader of Project 5 (Exploiting Mechanisms of Response and Resistance to Next Generation Androgen Pathway Antagonists) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE. Areas of research in his program include:

  1. Control of prostate cancer growth and metastasis by inhibition of the type 1 IGF receptor with human monoclonal antibodies. Results in this area over the past year have shown that IGF-IR inhibition markedly enhances effects of castration by altering nuclear localization of the androgen receptor by changing AR phosphorylation sites. In collaboration with Dr. Bruce Montgomery, he has completed neo-adjuvant study of an IGF-IR monoclonal antibody combined with castration in men with high grade prostate cancer.
  2. The role of androgen receptor splicing as a mechanism of castration resistant prostate cancer. Dr. Plymate’s laboratory first described the ARv567es constitutively active splice variant in prostate cancer and its expression in human disease, the variant transcriptome, and splicing regulation of AR-V7 in response to castration. In addition, he has developed the first reported transgenic mouse in which AR-splice variants function as potential oncogenes.
  3. His laboratory is currently examining the interaction of ARv567es and PTEN loss in a transgenic mouse model.
  4. In collaboration with SPORE and DOD investigators, he is evaluating three new compounds that inhibit the amino-terminus of the AR and will thus inhibit all forms of the AR.
  5. Dr. Plymate has recently been awarded a DOD Transformative grant that includes two clinical trials targeting the AR as well as new laboratory methods for studying AR co-regulators and long-range chromatin interactions. He attends in the Prostate Cancer Clinic at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System (VAPSHCS) and the transitional care unit at VAPSHCS.

Lawrence True, MD

Larry True is co-director of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE Core B (Tissue & Specimen Core), a member of the SPORE Executive Committee, and Director of the University of Washington Medical Center’s GU Pathology program. Dr. True’s work has three components: research, clinical and educational. His research is focused on prostate carcinoma. Using cell and tissue localization techniques (laser microdissection, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry), and molecular techniques (expression arrays, proteomics), applied to both cell lines and to human tissue (both primary benign and malignant prostate, prostate cancer xenografts, and transgenic models of prostate cancer), Dr. True studies cellular and molecular mechanisms of prostate carcinogenesis, benign prostatic hypertrophy, and prostatitis. Working with colleagues of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE and the UW/FHCRC Prostate Cancer program, he is characterizing the molecular features of prostate cancer and cancer-associated stroma in all stages and states of prostate neoplasia –primary cancer of different Gleason grades, metastases (bone and soft tissue), and androgen deprivation-resistant prostate cancer. In addition to his work as co-director of the Specimen Core (which includes the rapid research autopsy program), he chairs an NCI committee developing guidelines for tissue-based predictive assays and is helping develop and validate tissue assays that predict response to novel androgen deprivation agents. Clinically, he is a surgical pathologist with subspecialty expertise in neoplasms of the prostate, urinary bladder, testis, and kidney. The GU team of pathologists include Drs. Funda Vakar-Lopez (focus on bladder cancer), Maria Tretiakova (focus on kidney cancer), and Stephen Schmechel (general GU expertise, director of Cytopathology). As an educator, he teaches pathology, urology and medical oncology faculty, residents and fellows, UW medical students, and graduate students in the Pathology Department PhD program. He also gives courses in pathology of the prostate at national and international meetings, and he always enjoys the opportunity to discuss the pathology of tissue specimens with patients and family members.

Robert Vessella, PhD

Robert Vessella is co-director of Core B (Tissue & Specimen) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE, and is a member of the SPORE Executive Committee. Dr. Vessella serves as a professor in the UW Medical School’s departments of urology and microbiology. His research interests include:

  • Biomarkers for the detection of prostate cancer and those useful in monitoring the clinical course of the disease. These include markers that are secreted or cell associated which could be helpful in predicting the aggressiveness of the tumor.
  • Developing a biospecimen infrastructure for the study of prostate cancer. These efforts have led to the development of a large serum/plasma and tissue bank that contains thousands of well documented clinical specimens, including bone and soft tissue metastases acquired through our rapid autopsy program.
  • Developing human xenograft models in immune compromised mice that mimic the clinical disease in man, including progression from androgen dependence to androgen refractory disease and growth in bone that yields the characteristic osteoblastic response.
  • The detection of prostate cancer cell dissemination into the blood and bone marrow with the isolation and characterization of these cells. Since 2002, this work has been in collaboration with investigators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
  • The biology of prostate cancer dissemination and growth in bone, including the study of the bone microenvironment and factors which perturb normal bone remodeling and lead to the characteristic osteoblastic response.

Evan Yu, MD

Evan Y. Yu, co-Director of Core D (Clinical) of the PNW Prostate Cancer SPORE, is an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine oncology division, an associate member in Clinical Research Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Clinical trials director of the Genitourinary Oncology Clinical Trials Core. Dr. Yu’s research currently focuses on translational efforts to test novel therapeutics and discover unique cancer-related biomarkers. He is currently evaluating PET imaging with novel radiotracers as a marker of treatment response for patients with metastatic prostate cancer. He is also planning trials where PET imaging will direct study of specific cancer lesions to enhance the ability to understand novel drug resistance. His overall goal is to discover novel biomarkers with predictive clinical value that can help guide treatment and aid in the development of novel therapeutics for patients with prostate cancer.