During a ceremony at Sanford-Burnham at Lake Nona on May 10, the International Prostate Cancer Foundation (IPCF) awarded Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., scientific director of analytical genomics and bioinformatics at our Lake Nona campus, $60,000 to fund a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Perera’s lab.
“Sanford-Burnham can really make an impact in the field,” said Vipul Patel, M.D., FACS, founder of the IPCF and internationally renowned prostate cancer surgeon at Florida Hospital’s Global Robotics Institute, as he acknowledged Dr. Perera’s work to identify molecular markers for prostate cancer. Given IPCF and Sanford-Burnham’s shared goal to develop better diagnoses and treatments, this postdoc grant will hopefully only be a first step in a long and mutually beneficial partnership.
In Sanford-Burnham’s Lake Nona labs, Dr. Perera and his team are currently working on early prognostic markers for prostate cancer. The goal is to be able to diagnose prostate cancer earlier, through a simple urine or blood test instead of an invasive biopsy. “This research is urgently needed as professionals from all aspects of the field have been calling for these molecular markers. Not just for prostate cancer, but other malignant tumors as well,” explained Perera.
But how would these molecular markers work? Dr. Perera and others have found that the 97 percent of RNAs (messenger molecules) in the human cell that are not coding for a protein actually do have functional roles. Some non-coding RNAs perform important functions, such as switching genes on and off. However, they are also involved in the development of cancer. Higher or lower levels of certain RNAs have been found to play a role in the development of prostate cancer. Measuring these elevated or lowered RNA levels in the blood could consequently be an early marker for the disease.
As Dr. Patel pointed out during the ceremony, “We at Florida Hospital have operated on thousands of prostate cancer patients with various states of disease. We have a large database and a diverse pool of patient samples while Sanford-Burnham has deep basic medical research expertise.” When clinicians and medical researchers work together new therapies and diagnostic tools can be developed more rapidly.
You can read more about Dr. Perera’s research in a recent Florida Trend article, which you can find here. More information about the Dr. Patel and the International Prostate Cancer Foundation can be found here.