The mission of the Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development (CCRTD), Clark Atlanta University’s Center of Excellence serving the African-American community, is to provide opportunities for high caliber basic and translational research; train scientists in cancer research; and provide an educational environment for community outreach, prevention, early detection, and treatment of prostate cancer which disproportionately affects African Americans.
The Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development (CCRTD) will develop a scientific research center of national prominence with a clear focus on prostate cancer and its impact within the African-American community. This comprehensive center will engage in world-class basic and translational research; provide training for future generations of cancer scientists; and conduct community-based educational and research activities.
The Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development (CCRTD) was created in 1999 with the direct support of the RCMI program. The RCMI program has provided funding to support an administrative core, research and technical personnel, equipment and functioning of research support facilities.
In 2004, CCRTD decided to focus on the development of a nationally-recognized research and educational program in prostate cancer and its impact in the African-American community. The incidence of prostate cancer is 65% higher and the mortality rate due to prostate cancer is more than double in African-American men when compared to Caucasian men. This focus on prostate cancer was supported by the University, which selected CCRTD as one of its Centers of Excellence in 2005. The CCRTD also received significant support from Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), which helped to hire an Eminent Scholar in the area of Cancer Biology in 2004 to serve as Scientific Director of the CCRTD. GRA has also provided funds to acquire highly advanced scientific equipment for biomedical research over the past 4 years. These focused efforts resulted in the acquisition of significant funding from NIH/NCMDH in 2007 to develop a “Center of Excellence in Prostate Cancer Research, Education and Community Services”. We have also received funding from the DOD Prostate Cancer Program and other sources to support research projects from individual scientists at CCRTD.
In 2008, the RCMI program was renewed for an additional 5 years. Since 2003, CCRTD faculty members have published 63 journal articles and have made 174 presentations at national and international meetings. CCRTD faculty have also been very active in seeking additional funding to support their research programs and have submitted more than 40 grant applications to federal, state and private sources since 2002. These efforts resulted in the acquisition of major grant support and current funding at CCRTD from different sources is more than $4.1 million a year. Importantly, Dr. Jaideep Chaudhary, who was recruited by CCRTD in 2005, has been awarded an R01 grant by the National Cancer Institute (NCI); this is the first R01 granted to a CAU scientist since the late 80s. CCRTD hosts a weekly seminar series with speakers invited from all across the country to share their recent findings with CCRTD scientists. We also host a yearly National Prostate Cancer Symposium at CCRTD with participation from leaders in the area of prostate cancer biology and community service. The 5th annual symposium was held on March 17-18, 2009 and this year’s symposium is scheduled for March 14-16, 2010. In addition, CCRTD has hosted the African-American Prostate Cancer Advocates Leadership Conference on February 8-10, 2008. This historic conference was organized to develop national strategies to combat prostate cancer and its impact in the African-American community. The CCRTD has recruited three new tenure-track faculty members, three senior research scientists, several post-doctoral scientists, graduate students and other research staff in the past 4 years. Currently CCRTD consists of 43 staff and faculty and students.
Due to significant disparities in biomedical research capabilities at predominantly minority institutions, the NIH established a program (Research Centers in Minority Institutions) to enhance research capabilities in these institutions in early 1980s. The goal of the RCMI program is to enhance the research capacity and infrastructure at minority colleges and universities that offer doctorates in health sciences. It provides funding to recruit established and promising researchers, acquire advanced instrumentation, renovation of laboratories for competitive research, fund core research facilities, and other research support. Clark Atlanta University received its first RCMI program grant in 1985 and has been funded by this program continuously for the last 22 years. The most recent grant was funded in 2008 and our current 5 year funding period started on September 1, 2008. During the initial funding period, we have continued to expand and enhance our research activities of building a world class center dedicated to research in prostate cancer and its impact in the African-American community. Our specific goals are: 1) to develop and expand current research core facilities vital for carrying out research on the cellular and molecular biology of prostate cancer and 2) to recruit additional faculty and research staff who will further strengthen CCRTD. To provide additional support to CCRTD investigators, we have established three new core units within CCRTD Core Facilities: Histology Core Laboratory, Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Core and Analytical Core. Funds are also included to recruit three additional faculty members at CAU who will be committed to high caliber research in the area of prostate cancer biology and chemistry. This grant also supports four Ph.D. graduate students and four post-doctoral fellows at CCRTD.
Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), a private foundation created with funds provided by both private industry and the State of Georgia, was established in the early 1990s to increase the competitiveness of biomedical and technical research in the State of Georgia. GRA chose six academic institutions in Georgia to invest in their research development. GRA promotes cooperative research and development in technology transfer projects with private industry and increases awareness of the exceptional technological capabilities in Georgia especially in the environmental, information, telecommunications and biomedical areas. It supports these activities by providing funds for the recruitment of eminent scholars and for building research infrastructure in these institutions. Clark Atlanta University is the only HBCU which is a part of this consortium. Other institutions include Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, University of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia. GRA support to Clark Atlanta University has been very important to the development of research infrastructure in natural sciences.
CCRTD has received significant support from Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) which helped to hire an Eminent Scholar in the area of Cancer Biology in 2004 to serve as Scientific Director of the CCRTD. GRA has also provided funds to acquire highly advanced scientific equipment for biomedical research over the past 5 years.
The Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development (CCRTD) at Clark Atlanta University was awarded a $6.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) for a five-year period. This award is to establish a Center of Excellence for Prostate Cancer Research, Education and Community Services. This grant supports research, training and community outreach activities as related to prostate cancer in the African-American community at Clark Atlanta University. These funds support three individual research projects and six pilot projects in the area of cell and molecular biology of prostate cancer. Funding is also available to support scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students in the area of prostate cancer. The new center also provides initial funding to develop a community education component in prostate cancer. This initiative establishes a community-based educational program for raising awareness on prevention, screening, early detection and treatment of prostate cancer. These activities are carried out in collaboration with Clark Atlanta University Whitney M. Young, Jr. School of Social Work, Division of Communication Arts and Midtown Urology Educational Foundation.
We have received funding from the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program in Prostate Cancer for two projects. These PIs are Dr. Shafiq A. Khan and Dr. Valerie Odero-Marah. Dr. Khan’s project entitled “Intracrine Regulation of Androgen Receptor in Prostate Cancer Cells” investigates the role of testosterone produced in prostate cancer cells and its regulation by steroidogenesis-inducing protein (SIP) in the advanced stages of the disease. These studies should lead to a better therapeutic approach in combination with androgen ablation therapy to get rid of both androgen dependent and independent prostate cancers. Dr. Odero-Marah’s project entitled “Snail-mediated Signaling in Human Prostate Cancer” focuses on molecular mechanisms involved in metastasis of prostate cancer. She is studying the role of Snail transcription factor in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and Neuroendocrine Differentiation (NED) in prostate cancers. These studies will lead to a better understanding of EMT and NED and possible therapeutic strategies to combat prostate cancer growth and its metastasis.