UCSF Launches Benioff Initiative for Prostate Cancer Research

$35 Million Gift From Marc and Lynne Benioff Will Accelerate Research to Transform Prostate Cancer Treatment

By Jason Alvarez | UCSF.edu | September 19, 2019

Felix Feng, MD, will serve as the executive director, and Rohit Bose, MD, PhD, will serve on the Executive Committee of the newly announced Benioff Initiative for Prostate Cancer Research at UCSF.

UC San Francisco announced Thursday it will establish the UCSF Benioff Initiative for Prostate Cancer Research, made possible by a $35 million gift from Marc and Lynne Benioff. The new initiative will bring together scientists and physicians who seek to push the boundaries of prostate cancer research and devise new strategies to combat the disease, which remains the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in the U.S. and the second deadliest.

The gift reflects the Benioffs’ ongoing support of UCSF and commitment to advancing health care in the Bay Area.

“This initiative will seek out and better understand the major drivers of prostate cancer and come up with new ways of combating the disease with better therapies,” said Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and a member of the new initiative’s Executive Committee. “This gift will allow us to produce knowledge that will benefit patients and the entire prostate cancer community, and we’re incredibly grateful to Marc and Lynne for their support.”

“Prostate cancer has devastated too many families around the world, including our own,” said Marc and Lynne Benioff. “With this gift, we are honoring the memory of Marc's father and all of those who have been lost to prostate cancer by working with the leading experts at UCSF to spare other families the pain of this terrible disease.”

Deepening our Understanding of Prostate Cancer

Though prostate cancer claims more than 300,000 lives worldwide each year, the disease’s underlying causes and the factors driving the most aggressive, often fatal cases, remain poorly understood.

“For patients with metastatic prostate cancer resistant to first-line therapy, the FDA-approved therapies each improve survival by only several months. By investigating the biological pathways that drive prostate cancers to grow and spread, we hope to provide the foundation for developing the next generation of better therapies for this disease,” said prostate cancer expert Felix Feng, MD, a UCSF professor of radiation oncology, urology, and medicine, who will serve as the executive director of the new initiative.

According to Feng, the treatment landscape for aggressive prostate cancers stands in stark contrast to the many therapeutic options available for other common forms of cancer – including breast, colon and lung cancer – for which scientists have developed a range of therapies that target the specific genes, mutations and other molecular drivers that underlie each patient’s cancer. Such personalized therapies are still largely absent in the realm of prostate cancer.

“We recognize that prostate cancer is a heterogeneous disease,” said Rohit Bose, MD, PhD, a UCSF assistant professor of anatomy, medicine and urology, and a genitourinary medical oncologist who will serve on the Executive Committee of this initiative. “There are all kinds of prostate cancer, and each patient’s disease is unique. Relying on a single ‘magic bullet’ to stop all forms of the disease is a tall order.”


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