UBC Researcher Tames Drug-resistant Cancer

New drug combinations and personalized treatments provide cancer patients with more options.

 |  Transcript [PDF]

Although cancer is the number one cause of death in our society, our understanding of and ability to treat this disease has progressed substantially in the past decade. For prostate cancer, we’ve gone from one possible treatment to six clinically used drugs and more than doubled survival rates.

All of this is largely due to investment in research, such as that of Martin Gleave, Distinguished Professor and Vice-Chair of the Department of Urologic Sciences at the University of British Columbia.

Professor Gleave specifically works on understanding cancer resistance.  Resistance is when a cancer cell stops responding to a drug.  “Living organisms want to live even when conditions become harsh,” says Gleave.  In the case of cancer, this is a huge problem and a major cause of cancer mortality. Gleave’s research has improved classification of individual cancers on a scale of aggressiveness, helping to personalize treatments.  He is also working on rational combinations of existing drugs “creating incredible, durable responses that were otherwise unfathomable ten years ago.”

“We’re only now harvesting the seeds that were planted several decades ago in research,” says Gleave.

‹ Previous post
Next post ›

Dr. Gleave is a Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Urologic Sciences at UBC, and a British Columbia Leadership Chair.  He is Co-Founder and Director of the Vancouver Prostate Centre, now a UBC and National Centre of Excellence. As a clinician scientist he has published over 440 papers with >26,000 citations, has an H-Index of 90, an i10 index of 352, and attracted >$80M in research funding. Dr. Gleave’s research characterizes molecular mechanisms mediating treatment resistance in cancer, focusing on adaptive survival responses that drive acquired treatment resistance, and designing rational combination co-targeting strategies to create conditional lethality and improve cancer control. He generated in vivo models that mimic the course of castrate resistance that are now used worldwide to support mechanistic and preclinical proof-of principle studies. He used these model systems to define treatment-induced stress responses that promote treatment-resistance and was the first to report clusterin (CLU) and Hsp27 in treatment resistance. He patented several anti-cancer drugs and in 2001 founded OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals to develop OGX-011, an inhibitor of the cell survival gene, CLU, that potentiates anti-cancer therapies in many cancer models. After being the first to demonstrate significant target inhibition using an antisense drug in humans, he helped lead a randomized trial that demonstrated a 7-month gain in overall survival when OGX-011 was combined with docetaxel. 3 global Phase III registration trials with OGX-011 have been completed. He also discovered and developed OGX-427, another drug targeting Hsp27 that, for the first time, demonstrated single agent activity in Phase II studies of castrate resistant prostate cancer, and bladder cancer.