Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in the United States.Amnon Peled was talented at biology and science from the time he was eight years old.

So it’s not surprising he became a scientist, and now, 30 years later, the gifted Israeli has been cited by the US-based Prostate Cancer Foundation for his groundbreaking work in prostate cancer research.

Peled, a professor at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, was awarded one of the foundation’s 2004 Competitive Research Awards, a venture-style research funding mechanism which provides support to high-impact research projects with the greatest likelihood of providing improved near-term treatments for men with recurrent prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the Western male population. One in six American men will develop prostate cancer in the course of his lifetime. A little-known fact is that a man is 33% more likely to develop prostate cancer than an American woman is to get breast cancer.

Peled and his team were cited for their research for the “Treatment of Prostate Tumor Growth, Vascularization and Metastasis in Vivo Using the CXCR4 Antagonists T140.”

“Many cancers express an extensive network of chemokines and chemokine receptors – which are critical for the navigation of metastic cells. These cancerous tumors are characterized by a disregulated production of chemokines and an abnormal chemokine receptor signaling and expression. Because of their varied activities, chemokines are potentially valuable targets for therapeutic intervention in a wide range of human diseases,” Peled told ISRAEL21c.

Chemokines play an important role in recruiting inflammatory cells into tissues in response to infection and inflammation. The identification of several new chemokines has revealed that chemokines also play an important role coordinating the movement of T cells, B cells and dendritic cells necessary to generate an immune response.

Peled’s research deals with the protein known as CXCR4, a chemokine receptor, which is over expressed in more than 65% of human cancers, including breast, ovarian, lung, colon, prostate, kidney, melanoma, brain, esophageal, pancreatic, and many forms of leukemia.

“In the past few years, we found that CXCR4 plays a crucial role in the trafficking of hematopoietic stem cells to the bone marrow. During the past four years, our first objective was to study the role CXCR4 in the development, maintenance and metastasis of tumors which are known to metastasize to the bone marrow, such as prostate cancer,” he said.

According to Peled, prostate neoplasms tend to metastasize to the bone marrow. His study suggests a critical role for CXCR4 in the development of prostate tumors.

“However, in contrast to the current views on the role of CXCR4 as a chemotactic factor that induces tumor metastasis by cell migration, our in vitro and in vivo studies indicate that rather than acting merely as a homing receptor for circulating tumor cells, CXCR4 acts a positive regulator for tumor growth inducing cell proliferation, survival and blood vessel formation in the primary and distant metastatic tumor site. Our findings support a role for CXCR4 in cancer cells spreading within the bone marrow tissue by enhancing proliferation, survival, and acceleration.”

Peled said that he intend to identify genes whose expression is regulated by CXCR4 stimulation and are involved in the aggressive phenotype of prostate tumor cells.

“The role of genes that are regulated by CXCR4 and are expressed in prostate tumors will be tested in vivo experimental animal models for prostate cancer developed in our laboratories. We’re going to evaluate the potential use of theCRCX4 antagonist T140 as a therapeutic agent for prostate cancer as a novel therapy.

Peled said he was proud to receive the Prostate Foundation Award and would use the prize toward funding further research. He’s been invited to a three-day conference in Phoenix in September to present the findings of the study that won the award.

“This year, we granted Competitive Awards totaling $2.3 million to 25 scientists and physicians,” said Leslie D. Michelson, vice chairman and chief executive officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. “As the largest non-profit supporter of breakthrough science in prostate cancer, we are proud of our role in recruiting new talent to this arena, and we believe our Awards Program continues to play an important part in sparking innovative and novel ideas in drug discovery and development.”

The awards are made in a variety of research areas including genomics, molecular biology, angiogenesis, signal transduction, experimental models, apoptosis, new drug discovery, nutrition, alternative therapies and clinical medicine.

Peled joined his current position at the Gene Therapy Institute at Hadassah in 2000 as a principle investigator, after receiving his PhD from The Weizmann Institute of Science – where he began his research into CXCR4.

He then attended Harvard Medical School where he worked for Millenium Pharmeceuticals.

Peled — who lives in Tel Aviv — is married with two children. And of course, he said, they’re interested in biology. “I’m deeply involved in their education,” he said, adding that he volunteers and teaches classes on biology at their school.

Peled feels like he had a calling to become a scientist and try and help humanity.”My drive is to cure disease. I think I became a biologist because my brother is handicapped, and can’t work. I wanted to be able to ‘fix’ him. Maybe that’s where it came from.”

Whatever the reason, men around the world should be thankful that Peled is on the case in finding a treatment and cure for prostate cancer.