Dr. Damu Tang

Dr. Damu Tang

Dr. Damu Tang

Dr. Tang is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology, McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Dr. Tang’s research covers two types of cancer: prostate and breast cancer.

Prostate cancer affects one in six Canadian men and is the most common male cancer in Canada. In 2014, 23,600 new cases will be diagnosed and 4,000 Canadian men will die from the disease. The fatality rate is approximately 17%. Based on this knowledge, it will be ideal to treat those patients (17%) with a deadly prostate cancer earlier to prevent disease progression and in the same time to spare the majority of patients from harmful treatments, like surgery, radiation, and castration. However, this is not currently feasible, as we cannot separate the patients with not-so dangerous disease from those with aggressive prostate cancer. As a result, almost all patients undergo heavy-handed treatments; this leads to over treatment for a vast majority of patients, increases burden for the families and the society, and compromises patients’ quality of life. On the other hand, we wait for dangerous cancers to re-grow before next stage treatment; this allows aggressive tumors to progress to the fatal stage (metastasis). Dr. Tang’s research focuses on identification of biomarkers to diagnose whether patients have a risky prostate cancer. His group is also working for a cure for those patients with an aggressive disease. Dr. Tang’s research in these areas has been supported by Prostate Cancer Canada, CIHR, and private donations. His group has recently discovered a cell surface protein (Contactin 1/CNTN1) that drives prostate cancer metastasis, a deadly development. This protein can thus be used in diagnosis to see if patients having a CNTN1-positive prostate cancer, a risky disease; this protein can also be targeted to prevent CNTN1 from causing prostate cancer metastasis. A US provisional patent on CNTN1 has recently been filed by McMaster University.

Breast cancer is a major cancer affecting women worldwide. Approximately 70% of breast cancers are estrogen receptor (ER) positive; these cancers are commonly treated by tamoxifen. However, resistance commonly occurs, and is a major clinical problem. Unfortunately, we do not know exactly how resistance arises. Dr. Tang’s group has found a protein (SIPL1) that contributes to the resistance. Preventing SIPL1 from functioning may remove tamoxifen resistance. This research was supported by CIHR and reported by International Innovation.

Publications