University of Southern California
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Genitourinary Cancers Program

The Genitourinary (GU) Cancers Program is transdisciplinary and focused on the predisposition, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of GU malignancies by bridging basic and clinical research. The Program provides a common home, support and scientific rigor for collaborations between expert geneticists, epidemiologists, basic scientists and clinicians. It comprises 21 members from nine departments who have published 452 papers over the last funding period; of these 172 were inter-programmatic and 137 were intra-programmatic. The Program is supported by $6.6 million in peer-reviewed direct costs of which $5.1 million is from the NCI. GU Program members use all the Cancer Center Core Facilities, while they also use other resources, such as the three major databases (prostate, bladder and renal) to provide samples and clinical parameters for research. Additionally, the newly opened USC Epigenome Center which incorporates the Molecular Genomics Core provides state-of-the-art, high throughput platforms for genome-wide analyses. Interaction in the GU Cancers Program is fostered by the Cancer Center through sponsorship of GU focused Cancer Center Grand Rounds and GU Program Retreats. Highlights during recent years from this Program include the: 1) identification of genome-wide association loci that predispose to prostate cancer, followed by the elucidation of some of their phenotypic functions; 2) findings that DNA demethylation and histone deacetylase inhibition can activate the expression of microRNAs, which in turn may act as tumor suppressors; 3) p53 lab-to-bedside project, in which GU members generated lab data and then designed and completed a clinical trial; and 4) successful competition for a major U19 grant application of ~$12 million aimed at the ‘ELucidating Loci Involved in Prostate cancer SuscEptibility’ (ELLIPSE), which will provide a firm basis of prostate cancer risk estimations. Finally, the clinical/surgical arm of the GU Cancers Program was reinvigorated by the newly recruited chair of the Department of Urology, Dr. Inderbir Gill. The program integrates and bridges bench-to-bedside research activities with the aim to generating an impact in GU cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.