Researcher studies prostate cancer gene mutations

TrobridgePULLMAN, Wash. – The genes involved in the progression of prostate cancer from non-threatening to highly malignant are the focus of a new research project at Washington State University.

Grant D. Trobridge has received an award of $417,818 from the National Cancer Institute to identify which gene mutations cause the cancer to become threatening.

Prostate cancer is generally accepted as slow growing. It sometimes remains confined to the prostate gland and needs little or no treatment, while other times it spreads quickly.

“We know that several key genes have to be mutated before you get cancer,” Trobridge said. “Different tumors have different combinations of mutations. We have an approach that is expected to efficiently find the so-called ‘driving mutations.’”

Identifying genes for individualized treatment

In a preliminary study, Trobridge and his lab established a technique for identifying genes that may be involved in the cancer’s progression. In this three-year project, they will use that technique to identify the genes and then study their mutations. Both steps involve using a virus that Trobridge and his colleagues have altered and improved over the years.

They will use the virus to cause mutations in the genes – a process called mutagenesis screening – to find out which mutations result in progression of the cancer.

They also will use bioinformatics – the study of lots of human gene data accessible via computer – to help identify the key genes.

“Those genes may become therapeutic targets or biomarkers that could allow us to individualize treatment in the future,” he said.

Preliminary WSU funding

Funding for the preliminary study to establish the technique for the mutagenesis screen came from the Donald J. and Margaret McLeod Endowment in the WSU College of Pharmacy, a research endowment established by a 1936 graduate of the college.

Trobridge is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the School of Molecular Biosciences. Before coming to WSU in 2010, he was a staff scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington. He has a Ph.D. in microbiology from Oregon State University.


Lorraine Nelson, WSU College of Pharmacy communications,, 509-368-6671