Peter Black '87

-Medicine
-Cancer research
Positions:
Senior Research Scientist, Vancouver Prostate Centre
Associate Professor, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia
Active Staff, Vancouver General Hospital, UBC Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph’s Hospital
Consultant, BC Cancer Agency
CUA and former AUA Scholar

Dr. Peter Black trained with one of the premier bladder cancer research groups in the world at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and has now established a research group at the Prostate Centre focused on targeting growth factor receptors in urothelial carcinoma of the bladder. His prior work concentrated on epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and mechanisms of resistance to EGFR inhibition in pre-clinical models of bladder cancer. This work led to identification of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition as a key predictor of response to EGFR inhibition – and the fact that modulation of E-cadherin expression markedly affects response. Further studies also revealed close correlations between EGFR response and expression of both human EGF receptor 4 (HER4) and platelet derived growth factor receptor-ß (PDGFR-ß). Dual inhibition of PDGFR-ß and EGFR, for example, was effective in inhibiting growth of cell lines that were resistant to EGFR inhibition alone.

The continuation of this work on growth factor receptors has now shifted to NOTCH signaling. Preliminary gene expression profiling data points to the dysregulation of the NOTCH pathway as a relevant biologic mechanism in bladder cancer. NOTCH has well described roles in other cancers, including T-ALL and breast cancer. Dr. Black’s group is currently conducting a detailed characterization of the pathway in bladder cancer and will move forward with specific targeting of relevant mediators in the pathway. They expect that targeting the NOTCH pathway will modulate E-cadherin expression and enhance response to EGFR inhibitors and other agents.

Another component of Dr. Black’s research focus is fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3). FGFR3 is mutated in up to 80% of low-grade and non-invasive bladder cancers. While at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Black performed in vitro characterization of the FGFR3 pathway and also analyzed the mutation rate (by sequencing) and expression (by immunohistochemistry) of FGFR3 in patient tumours. He is now testing in collaboration with Colin Dinney, M.D. at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center specific FGFR3 inhibitors in human orthotopic xenografts using both established cell lines and novel primary xenografts. We anticipate that this work will lead to a clinical trial involving one or more of these compounds in patients with bladder cancer.
In addition to this work, Dr. Black is involved with collaborative projects within the Prostate Centre and the wider UBC research community. He is working with Hongshen Ma, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering on a novel microfluidic device to isolate circulating tumour cells in prostate and bladder cancer. He is working with Elai Davicioni, Ph.D. and GenomeDx Biosciences to develop gene expression signatures for use as biomarkers in bladder cancer.

I chose to be a part of this program because I think I have the best job in the world and would be delighted if I could support a young Georgian motivated to follow a similar path. My unique perspective is that of a surgeon scientist able to combine clinical medicine with bench-to-bedside laboratory research.
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