Jefferson Initiative Seeks Answers to Deadly Disease

Philadelphia Prostate Cancer Biome Project Supports Researchers

In 2019, Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) established the Philadelphia Prostate Cancer Biome Project, a collaborative initiative to study the region’s prostate cancer biome, the biological/sociological/psychological ecosystem where the disease flourishes.

The project began with three major goals: to create a pilot award program to provide financial support for researchers; to further develop the framework to collect biospecimens and clinical information; and to create programs to develop new cell and animal models for prostate cancer that can be used to test new therapies and drugs.

Researchers are partnering with cancer centers, hospitals, and universities throughout the Philadelphia region—and beyond—to collect and process the biospecimens and data that could provide valuable information in the search for a cure.

The project was the brainchild of Syd Martin, a longtime benefactor, who believed that funding cancer researchers who are early in their careers and employ outside-the-box thinking could yield great advances. He sought to support scientists whose revolutionary ideas might not be embraced by traditional government funding. Martin passed away in January 2021 but the work he began is still going strong.

Under the leadership of W. Kevin Kelly, DO, associate director of clinical research at SKCC; Leonard Gomella, MD, the Bernard W. Godwin Professor of Prostate Cancer and chair of the Department of Urology, SKCC; and Adam Dicker, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, the researchers have enrolled more than 300 patients in studies, collected or acquired hundreds of biospecimens, and moved their laboratory studies forward. Their research on many different aspects of the disease has shown great progress in unravelling the mysteries of prostate cancer.

The researchers have received $1.4 million in pilot project funding, and $4.5 million in outside grants—including four National Institute of Health grants. Jefferson’s generous philanthropists, who share its vision of a world without prostate cancer, have also added to the research dollars.