Cancer Researcher Sets Sights on
Late-Stage Prostate Cancer Treatment
Peering into the microscope, Xiaoqi Liu is drawn into the rhythmic motions of the
cells — how they grow, how they divide, how their signal pathways are modified by
the presence of something new.
But gazing out the windows of the Hansen Life Sciences Research building, he is
also drawn to the people passing by. “You try to do something good for society,”
says Liu, an associate professor of biochemistry and a
member of the Purdue University Center for Cancer
Research. “Cancer biology is one way.”
Liu is setting his sights on prostate cancer, the second
leading cause of cancer deaths for men in the United
States. Currently, there are few therapies for the cancer
in its most advanced stages.
Now Liu and his collaborators at Purdue, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Indiana University
School of Medicine have discovered that low doses
of metformin, a widely used diabetes medication,
combined with a gene inhibitor known as BI2536, can
suppress the spread of prostate cancer that resists all
other available treatments — that could potentially
prolong patients’ lives.
“By combining low levels of two well-tolerated drugs,
the progression of this disease could be significantly
delayed,” he says. “Completely curing the cancer at the
advanced stage is pretty much impossible, but this treatment might manage it for a while — that’s exciting.”
The researchers tested the drugs in a classical cell culture assay of prostate cancer
cells and in advanced prostate tumors in mice. Low concentrations of the drugs
significantly slowed the development of cancer in both trials. The mice tumors
were grown from the tumor cells of a late-stage prostate cancer patient, suggesting
that the treatment would prove effective in humans.
“Those results were amazing,” says Liu, whose work was published in the Journal
of Biological Chemistry in January. “These are the first data we’ve generated from a
real patient, so I was almost jumping in the air when I saw that it worked.”
The next step in the research is to test the combination of drugs in clinical trials.
Further research is also needed to understand the underlying mechanism of
metformin and why it is effective at suppressing prostate cancer.
“As a basic cell biologist, I don’t develop new compounds by myself. But I can use
my expertise to understand how cells modify or their signals change in response to
different drugs,” he says. “The cancer center has created an ideal environment for
me to learn a lot from my colleagues and for me to contribute to their work.”
Purdue, IU Health
Arnett Sign MOU for
Purdue University and Indiana
University Health Arnett in Lafayette have announced a three-year
collaboration agreement to promote
human clinical research efforts
between the two groups.
The goal is to expedite research
efforts aimed at improving clinical
outcomes, positioning Purdue and
IU Health Arnett to attract local,
state, federal and institutional funding, Purdue and IU Health Arnett
The agreement through the Purdue
Executive Vice President for Research
and Partnerships (EVPRP) office also
advances existing efforts led by the
Oct. 31, 2017.
“Basic life sciences research has rapidly
advanced in the past several years to
routinely include human clinical samples,”
says Marietta Harrison, director of the
Oncological Sciences Center in Purdue’s
Discovery Park and special adviser for
strategic initiatives for the EVPRP.
“This agreement between Purdue faculty
and IU Health Arnett clinical staff will
provide an opportunity for a close and
“We look forward to deepening our
collaborative efforts with our academic
friends at Purdue to build on our
strengths for enhancing cancer and other
research from the bench to the bedside,”
says Alfonso Gatmaitan, chief executive
officer of IU Health Arnett.