Swapna Asuthkar, PhD, assistant professor with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, received a two-year $55,000 grant from William E. McElroy Research Foundation for her study “Activation of TRPM8 channel suppresses Prostate Cancer Growth and Progression.”

Prostate cancer is one of the most common male malignancies and a leading cause of cancer-related death in men. While androgen-deprivation therapy is effective in the initial stages of prostate cancer, tumor cells eventually become unresponsive to androgen ablation. Thus, the transition to androgen-independent prostate cancer (AIPC) has a poor prognosis with a median survival of 18 months. While mechanisms underlying this transition remain unclear, evidence suggests the loss of the transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8) as a key contributing factor leading to therapy resistance. TRPM8 is an ionotropic receptor normally expressed in the prostate epithelium.

Recently, Asuthkar and her colleagues demonstrated that testosterone-induced TRPM8 activation increases Ca2+ uptake and promotes programmed cell death. This led to their hypothesis that enhanced activity of the TRPM8 on the plasma membrane is cytotoxic to cancer cells and loss of TRPM8 is a key event involved in prostate cancer pathogenesis. However, efforts to promote its expression and stabilization to reduce the burdens associated with late-stage prostate cancer require further research. This project proposal will further elucidate the tumor suppressor function of TRPM8. In addition, it will encourage the development of TRPM8 targeted therapeutics for future clinical trials to provide effective treatment options for patients with late-stage prostate cancer.

Swapna Asuthkar PhD
Swapna Asuthkar, PhD, left, conducts research in her lab at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria.