Dr. Daniel E. Frigo
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Departments of Cancer Systems Imaging and Genitourinary Medical Oncology
Steroid hormones are chemicals that are made in one part of our body and can travel great distances to signal specific events in other parts of our body. At the molecular level, steroid hormones communicate by binding to and activating a class of proteins known as nuclear receptors. These hormone-bound receptors can then turn on or off cellular signaling pathways that collectively control different biological responses. For example, androgens, such as testosterone, are steroid hormones that are produced mainly in the testes and can circulate through our bloodstream to various targets like the prostate where the hormone promotes the development of this organ by binding to and activating androgen receptors (ARs). Importantly, while androgens are required for males to develop normally, abnormal androgen signaling can promote prostate cancer.
Despite the known importance of androgens in prostate cancer, it is still unclear which androgen-regulated signaling pathways cause progression of the disease. To address this, my laboratory takes a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses fields spanning from genomics to pharmacology to biochemistry to molecular and cellular biology and testing in preclinical animal models. This approach facilitates the identification of those pathways that are actually driving the stages of the disease for which patients have limited treatment options. Most recently, we have been focused on understanding how these pathways alter cellular metabolism to promote disease progression. Now, we are also positioned to rapidly test whether these newly identified metabolic pathways represent realistic therapeutic targets and hence, set the foundation for developing mechanistically innovative drugs.