LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

$1M Grant Funds Research on Potential New Rx for Prostate Cancer

March 3, 2021

prostate cancer cell

The Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development Branch of the Veterans Administration (VA) has awarded Hari Koul, PhD, Professor and Interim Chairman of the Department Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, $1,056,317 in research funding over four years to help find new treatments for prostate cancer. Dr. Koul is also a research scientist at the New Orleans VA Medical Center.

According to National Cancer Institute estimates, about 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2020, with more than 33,000 deaths. As long as cancer remains in the prostate gland, many treatments, including surgery and radiation therapy, are effective. When prostate cancer spreads, hormone therapy is the standard treatment.

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“Despite an initial response, almost all men fail current treatments and develop Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer,” notes Dr. Koul. “To date, we do not have a curative treatment for these cancer patients. There is an urgent yet unmet need for the identification and characterization of new targets for therapeutic intervention. Our goal is to address this vital knowledge gap by characterizing the role of Prostate Derived ETS Transcription Factor (PDEF) in prostate cancer, thereby reducing deaths.”

Transcription factors copy or transcribe genetic instructions from DNA that is confined to the cell’s nucleus to a messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule. The mRNA molecule then translates and transmits the information to the parts of the cell that can make proteins. Many biological functions are performed by proteins. PDEF appears to play a key role in the transcription of instructions to prostate cancer cells.

Hari Koul, PhD
Dr. Koul, who is also a professor of Urology and Associate Director of the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health New Orleans, and his research team previously discovered a link between loss of PDEF and advanced prostate cancer. They also noted that prostate cancers that fail hormone therapy have decreased or undetectable levels of PDEF. They found that when they increased levels of PDEF in prostate cancer cells in the pre-clinical setting, these cancer cells were no longer able to form metastasis or spread outside of the prostate gland.

Focusing on PDEF as a therapeutic target is a groundbreaking conceptual advancement, which holds translational promise in identifying new treatments for Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer (CPRC).

“Our goals are to broaden our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which PDEF affects prostate cancer cells and test new treatments for CRPC,” adds Dr. Koul. “The accomplishment of these goals should substantially advance our understanding of prostate cancer progression, therapy resistance and metastasis. This research is likely to have a significant impact on saving lives of men suffering from prostate cancer by characterizing novel targets for intervention in the immediate future.”

The research project will begin on April 1, 2021.

“Dr. Koul is one of five LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine faculty who have been awarded nearly $7 million for their VA research projects,” adds Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. “Our partnership will improve the health and quality of life for veterans.”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (LSU Health New Orleans) educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's health sciences university leader, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous annual economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment or cure disease. To learn more, visit,, or