American Urological Association - 2016 – 2017 Research Scholars

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2016 2017 Research Scholars Research Scholar Award Funding Opportunities Research Home

2016 – 2017 Research Scholars

Congratulations to the new 2016-2017 AUA/Urology Care Foundation Research Scholars!


Scott Haake, MD

Project Title: "Novel Mechanisms of SETD2 Tumorigenesis in Kidney Cancer"

Institution: Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Mentor: Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD

Sponsor: AUA Southeastern Section Research Scholar Fund I

In cancer, mutations in genes reprogram the function of normal cells so that they behave in a very aggressive manner. Proteins are the molecular machinery that perform the function of cells. A normal cell can be reprogrammed into a cancer cell by 1) inserting cancer proteins or 2) modifying the function of normal proteins so that they carry out cancer functions. Our novel research proposal is the first to study how a commonly mutated gene in kidney cancer, SETD2, reprograms proteins and thus promotes the evolution of normal kidney cells into cancer.

Alan Kaplan, MD

Project Title: "Value-based care redesign in urology: Can quality and cost data feedback change physician behavior?"

Institution: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Mentor: Mark Litwin, MD, MPH and Christopher Saigal, MD, MPH

Sponsor: AUA Western Section Research Scholar Fund I

High value healthcare achieves excellent clinical outcomes and a good patient experience at a low cost. The current healthcare landscape fails to meet these goals. By redesigning our care in a common urologic condition, we hope to study the most effective ways to guide that switch. We are giving doctors direct feedback about the value of the care they provide using health information technology and high quality data. By rigorously studying how doctors react, we hope to inform policy on ways our healthcare system can provide patients better care at a lower cost.

Haeyeong Lee, PhD

Project Title: "Molecular and functional characterization of PDGFRa+ cells in CYP-induced interstitial cystitis"

Institution: Department of Physiology & Cell Biology, University of Nevada, Reno

Mentor: Sang Don Koh, PhD

Sponsor: Interstitial Cystitis Association

This application seeks to explore novel mechanisms that lead to urinary symptoms associated with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome. The successful completion of this project will significantly impact our current understanding of the mechanisms associated with urinary symptoms and reveal new diagnostic and therapeutic targets for interstitial cystitis.

Sanghee Lee, PhD

Project Title: "Mechanisms of neurogenic voiding dysfunction in a murine model of multiple sclerosis"

Institution: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Mentor: Anna Malykhina, PhD

Sponsor: Olympus

Patients diagnosed with neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson`s and Alzheimer's diseases develop a wide range of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) including urinary urgency, urinary incontinence, nocturia, a sensation of incomplete emptying, and a weak urinary stream. Given the unfavorable side effect profile of the available pharmacological approaches for these patients, more innovative treatments are desperately needed. To develop novel therapeutics, a greater understanding of the pathophysiology and patterns of neurogenic LUTS is required. Therefore, in this proposal we will determine the mechanisms by which neurodegenerative changes in the CNS affect the function of the urinary bladder, and will utilize a mouse model of MS as an example of a neurodegenerative disorder.

U-Ging Lo, PhD

Project Title: "A new microRNA biogenesis machinery mediated by IFIT5 complex leading to metastasis progression of prostate cancer"

Institution: University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center

Mentor: Jer-Tsong Hsieh, PhD

Sponsor: AUA South Central Section Research Scholar Fund II

Prostate cancer (PCa) patients treated with androgen-deprivation therapy often relapse with highly aggressive castration resistance PCa, which contributes to the majority of mortality in PCa. Hence, identifying molecular mechanism(s) that drive aggressive PCa at early stage becomes critical for therapeutic strategy development. MicroRNAs (miRNA) are small noncoding RNA molecules regulating multiple biological processes. Many miRNAs are tightly correlated with tumor development and progression. We unveiled a new miRNA turnover machinery composed of Interferon-induced tetratricopeptide repeat 5 (IFIT5), which is able to degrade a specific population of miRNAs with unique 5’end precursor structure. Therefore, we will examine the role of IFIT5-mediated miRNA turnover machinery in PCa progression toward highly metastasized stages.

Bronagh McDonnell, PhD

Project Title: "Influence of chronic stress on sensory changes in IC/PBS"

Institution: University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mentor: Larissa Rodriguez, MD and Lori Birder, PhD

Sponsor: AUA Northeastern Section Research Scholar Fund I

Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) is a chronic, painful condition associated with urinary frequency and urgency. There is substantial evidence that supports a role for emotional stress in the exacerbation (and possibly development) of generalized pain syndromes such as IC/BPS as well as micturition disorders. Further, chronic stress and bladder dysfunction in IC/BPS may be related to autonomic (adrenergic) dysregulation that influences nociceptive signaling. Changes in sensory mechanisms are important in patients diagnosed with IC/BPS. While previously known of as a simple barrier, the epithelial cells which line the bladder lumen (urothelium) is associated with the nervous system and sensory input arising at the urothelial surface regulates bladder function to higher centers via a local urothelial-afferent signaling pathway. The goals of this project are to explore the effect of chronic stress on urothelial-related functional elements in the bladder wall. Our preliminary data show that chronic stress correlates with altered urothelial release of mediators that can adversely impact sensation and bladder function. Thus, our overall hypothesis is that chronic stress significantly impacts urothelial-afferent signaling and this, in turn, leads to altered voiding function and symptoms of pain.

Henry Okafor, MD

Project Title: "The impact of tissue regeneration on rodent models of Intersitial cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome (IC/PBS)"

Institution: Cleveland Clinic

Mentor: Margot Damaser, PhD and Daniel Shoskes, MD

Sponsor: Interstitial Cystitis Association

Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder syndrome (IC/PBS) is a debilitating medical condition that is difficult to treat because the cause is generally unknown. The proposed research project will look at a potential new therapy for IC/PBS by testing it on a rat model which has been conditioned to develop IC like symptoms. The proposed mechanism of the agent being tested is that is prevents breakdown of Prostaglandin E2, which is needed to help with tissue regeneration. If successful, this new therapy could be translated to clinical trials and potentially bring relief to IC patients.

Simpa Salami, MD, MPH

Project Title: "Molecular Profiling of Serial Targeted Biopsy Tissue to Predict Progression of Low to High Grade Prostate Cancer in Men on Active Surveillance"

Institution: University of Michigan

Mentor: Ganesh Palapattu, MD; Scott Tomlins, MD, PhD and Leonard Marks, MD

Sponsor: Society for Urologic Oncology Research Scholar Fund for Specialized Programs of Research Excellence

Dr. Salami’s research project is focused on evaluating genetic abnormalities that can be used to determine if low grade prostate cancer can progress to high grade disease during surveillance. Along with other investigators, he will also evaluate if targeted prostate biopsy using a combination of MRI and ultrasound can accurately be used to monitor men on active surveillance for prostate cancer. Overall, the results from this project will empower prostate cancer patients and physicians when contemplating how best to manage low grade prostate cancer.

Arjun Sivaraman, MBBS, MCH

Project Title: "Functional outcomes and thermal exposure of the vital structures during MR-guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound ablation of prostate cancer"

Institution: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Mentor: Oguz Akin, MD; Behfar Ehdale, MD, MPH and Elena Kaye, PhD

Sponsor: Indian American Urological Association/Sakti Das, MD Research Scholar Fund

Prostate Cancer (PCa) is a major health care problem affecting men. Focal therapy (FT) is a rapidly emerging treatment option that aims at selectively destroying the cancerous tissue while preserving the remaining normal prostate and is considered as a middle ground treatment option between the conventional ‘Active Surveillance’ and ‘Radical treatment’ for organ confined PCa. FT offers the unique opportunity to achieve acceptable cancer control with better preservation of genitourinary functions. High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is a non-invasive, heat based energy source currently available for FT with extensive research experience. HIFU ablation has demonstrated encouraging results in effectively killing the cancer cells but its effect on the vital structures close to prostate (urinary sphincter, nerves, urethra etc.,) that can affect the genitourinary functions is still unknown. In this study, we aim to use Magnetic Resonance (MR) thermography technique to identify and quantify the heat changes that takes place in these vital structures during HIFU ablation and evaluate its effect on the post-operative genitourinary functions like urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction etc. The results of this study can help in individualized treatment planning for a safe HIFU ablation and be used for predicting functional outcomes (recovery of function or risk of complications).

Paul Toren, MD

Project Title: "Do sex steroid serum levels following ADT initiation predict the development of castrate resistant prostate cancer?"

Institution: Laval University

Mentor: Yves Fradet, MD

Sponsor: AUA Northeastern Section Research Scholar Fund II

Prostate cancer is uniquely driven by testosterone and standard treatment for advanced disease consists of castration to drastically lower the blood testosterone levels available to the prostate cancer. Testosterone is synthesized by the body from precursor sex hormones. Using stored blood samples from a clinical trial, this study aims to study the potential long-term effect of circulating levels of precursor sex hormones which are present during castration. Knowledge of these biological effects may help us better understand how to identify patients at higher risk of developing castration resistant cancer and to better select appropriate treatments.

Jason Van Batavia, MD

Project Title: "Using transgenic murine models and optogenetic activation of Barrington's nucleus to reverse and recapitulate the social stress induced voiding phenotype"

Institution: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Joseph Stokes Jr Research Institute

Mentor: Stephen Zderic, MD and Rita Valentino, PhD

Sponsor: AUA Mid-Atlantic Section William D. Steers, MD Research Scholar Fund

Pediatric urologists see a large number of children with bladder problems who may be suffering from infections or are incontinent of urine. This creates problems at home and school and is damaging to the child’s self-esteem. Because the brain and bladder communicate by the nervous system in order to function normally, we are studying these nerve circuits using mouse models. If we can better understand in mouse models why the brain-bladder connection is not working, we can design better ways to treat this condition that frustrates children and their parents.

Jeffrey White, MD, PhD

Project Title: "RBFOX2 copy number variants affect splicing of FGFR2 and cause hypospadias"

Institution: Baylor College of Medicine

Mentor: Dolores Lamb, PhD; Chester Koh, MD and David Roth, MD

Sponsor: Society for Pediatric Urology/Sushil Lacy, MD Research Scholar Fund

Pediatric urologists see a large number of children with bladder problems who may be suffering from infections or are incontinent of urine. This creates problems at home and school and is damaging to the child’s self-esteem. Because the brain and bladder communicate by the nervous system in order to function normally, we are studying these nerve circuits using mouse models. If we can better understand in mouse models why the brain-bladder connection is not working, we can design better ways to treat this condition that frustrates children and their parents.

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