Skip Navigation

KU Cancer Center Researcher Secures $1.4M Grant to Develop Peptide Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Grant will fund Dr. Benyi Li’s research targeting treatment resistance in prostate cancer

March 25, 2024

Benyi Li, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Urology and member of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, has received a nearly $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a short peptide-based therapy for prostate cancer patients. It is Dr. Li’s 8th prostate cancer project to be funded by the DoD in the last 20 years.

As prostate cancer advances, it often becomes resistant to standard therapies like androgen-deprivation therapy and androgen receptor antagonists. Cancer cells resist treatment or acquire mutations that make them less responsive to therapy, posing a significant hurdle for effective treatment. However, recent studies have shed light on a potential breakthrough in overcoming treatment resistance. It involves disrupting the stability of a key player in prostate cancer development and progression: the androgen receptor protein.

“Our preliminary studies have identified a small peptide capable of triggering the breakdown of this protein in prostate cancer cells,” Dr. Li said. “The aim of our project is to optimize this small peptide to enhance its drug-like properties, paving the way for a potential new treatment.”

Dr. Li and his team will test how well the optimized peptides work in animal models created from prostate cancer cells and patient tissues and build on their early findings suggesting that the peptide interferes with a protein complex involving PHKA1 and PHKB, which stabilizes the androgen receptor. 

“This translational study will help researchers fully grasp how the peptide functions,” Dr. Li said. “Ultimately, we hope to develop a novel therapeutic peptide for people who have developed resistance to anti-androgen receptor drugs.”

Explore more news, events and blog