NEWS | June 11, 2021

Early career investigator receives federal funding to research lethal prostate cancer


Prostate cancer is diagnosed more than any other type of cancer in men and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in males. Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is typically the first-line treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, but, ultimately, the cancer becomes resistant. This form of the disease is called castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and is currently incurable.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Chengfei Liu receives an NCI grant to further his research in metastatic prostate cancer. UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Chengfei Liu receives an NCI grant to further his research in metastatic prostate cancer.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center scientist Chengfei Liu has been unrelenting in his pursuit to find out why CRPC evolves to become drug resistant. He recently earned a highly-coveted $2 million National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant to further his research on CRPC.

“Dr. Liu is the first early stage cancer investigator to win the R37 award at UC Davis,” UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr. said. “This award will help him further develop his career and his research, while making important contributions to our understanding of what’s driving resistant prostate cancer.”

Liu has extensive expertise in clinical oncology and prostate cancer research. Specifically, he has learned that by blocking a defective protein pathway, treatment-resistant prostate cancer cells can become vulnerable to standard-of-care therapies such as the drug enzalutamide.

“I’m pleased and honored to receive the R37 award and to continue progress on key pathways that are controlling prostate cancer drug resistance,” Liu said. “This gives hope to finding new therapeutic targets that will have a meaningful impact on patients diagnosed with CRPC.”

Liu, an assistant professor at the UC Davis Department of Urologic Surgery, was previously in the UC Davis Paul Calabresi Career Development K12 program as a dean’s scholar.

Liu will begin his R37 award on July 1. He will serve as the principal investigator, supported by several collaborators, including Christopher P. Evans, professor and chair of the Department of Urologic Surgery, Mamta Parikh, assistant professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, Brett S. Phinney, director of UC Davis Genome Center Proteomics Core, and Blythe P Durbin-Johnson, biostatistician at the Department of Public Health Sciences.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 15,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 150 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 225 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit