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Study Using New FDA Approved Novel Prostate Cancer Therapy Published in Nature Medicine Journal

Neeraj Agarwal, MD, FASCO
Neeraj Agarwal, MD, FASCO

Neeraj Agarwal, MD, FASCO, Presidential Endowed Chair of Cancer Research at Huntsman Cancer Institute, professor of medicine at the University of Utah, and lead investigator of the Talapro-2 clinical trial, recently published new results from a study where patients were given a combination of drugs to treat advanced prostate cancer.

The Talapro-2 study combines two different cancer drugs, enzalutamide and talazoparib. Enzalutamide has been used for many years for prostate cancer, but the addition of talazoparib is new. This combination decreases the risk of cancer progression by 55% in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

The new results, published in Nature Medicine, share the name with a previous publication in The Lancet from earlier this year. However, it is important to know that these two published studies differ. In Agarwal’s most recent research in Nature Medicine, a larger group of patients was studied. Each of the patients had something in common—a specific genetic mutation in their DNA, known as homologous recombination repair genes (HRR). Previous publications were with much smaller groups of people who did not have these genetic mutations.

According to Agarwal, HRR genes play a crucial role in fixing damaged DNA. When a mutation occurs, these genes are not able to mend the damage, which can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer. These gene mutations can be passed down through families. Scientists found HRR genes using the Utah Population Database (UPDB) at Huntsman Cancer Institute, an in-depth database of family genetic information. The process was similar to the discovery of BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Purple colored slide of abnormal cells, indicating prostate cancer
Slide of abnormal cells, indicating prostate cancer

“Thanks to the large families who contributed their vast genetic history to this database, we have been able to use this information, years later, to help a specific group of patients with advanced prostate cancer,” says Agarwal.

Out of 1,037 patients, many had the BRCA genetic mutation, which increases the risk of developing breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer. Other participants had CHEK2, CDK12, ATM, or a combination of mutations. These specific patients had even greater success from the drug combination than the general patient population in previous publications.

“There was a significant delay in needing chemotherapy and disease progression,” says Agarwal. “This is a huge benefit to these patients, both physically and psychologically.”

Agarwal is a huge advocate for cancer research and has led more than 400 articles to publication. He is the senior director for clinical research translation, which oversees many early and advanced phase clinical trials.

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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U) is the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. With a legacy of innovative cancer research, groundbreaking discoveries, and world-class patient care, we are transforming the way cancer is understood, prevented, diagnosed, treated, and survived. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering a cancer-free frontier to all communities in the area we serve. We have more than 300 open clinical trials and 250 research teams studying cancer at any given time. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Our scientists are world-renowned for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique disease. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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