Researchers receive Movember grant
Two McMaster researchers have been honoured with the Movember Discovery Grant which will provide each researcher with $200,000 over a two-year term. The grant, which Prostate Cancer Canada awarded to 26 researchers this year, will go towards two projects.
The first will fund research on cancer-induced depression by Gurmit Singh, professor in pathology and molecular medicine. Another has been awarded to Khalid Al-Nedawi, assistant professor of medicine, for a study investigating hormone therapy resistance.
Singh’s research on how prostate cancer can cause depression uses an animal model, the first of its kind in Canada. The study will eventually move to clinical trials once the mechanism that causes depression in those patients is understood through animal research.
The end goal of the research is to alleviate depression in cancer patients, which Singh believes is caused not by psycho-social factors, but by biological ones.
“We decided to look at the quality of life of prostate cancer patients. Normally what happens is over time a lot of prostate cancer patients get depressed,” said Singh.
The research team discovered that many tumour cells produce a neurotransmitter called glutamate when they are under oxidative stress. In other studies, glutamate has been linked to depression, and is now theorized to be a main cause of depression in prostate cancer patients.
“This would be stopping depression at the tumour site rather than in the brain,” said Singh.
Singh began his work in cancer research when he first joined the board of governors for the Canadian Best Cancer Foundation.
“When I joined this board on the day of run for the cure I was with some survivors and they told me that it’s great they they’re living longer, but they are in so much pain that they’d rather die,” said Singh.
After that experience, Singh began studying pain in breast cancer patients with the goal to improve quality of life for those with cancer. This has led to his new project that will provide a higher quality of life for prostate cancer patients by alleviating depression caused by prostate cancer.
The project, which is now underway, is in the early stages.
“We are hoping within two years we will have an animal model for depression,” said Singh. “Once we have that then we will be screening for drugs that block the release of glutamate.”
“At the end of the day, depression is not caused by one factor – it is multi-factorial. If we can control the biology, and the psychologists can control the social aspects, we may have a better quality of life for patients.”