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Dr. Alexander Wyatt

Assistant Professor

Urologic Sciences

Vancouver Prostate Centre

Dr. Wyatt is an early career investigator with an academic focus on cancer genomics. He has a broad background in basic molecular biology and genetics, as well as considerable experience in cancer bioinformatics and the analysis of complex datasets. His primary research goals are to dissect the clinical relevance of genomic alterations in metastatic genitourinary cancers, and develop minimally-invasive biomarkers for guiding therapy selection. His laboratory leverages a variety of innovative next-generation sequencing techniques to interrogate tissue and liquid biopsies from patients enrolled on a series of ongoing clinical trials and protocols. The team works very closely with senior medical oncologists and urologists to enable patient-sample driven science.

In the past 18 months the Wyatt laboratory has published in Clinical Cancer Research, JAMA Oncology, European Urology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and Cancer Discovery. Together, their body of work has demonstrated that plasma circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) can help predict resistance and guide therapy use in prostate and bladder cancers.

Dr. Wyatt’s research is funded through peer-reviewed grants from the NIH/NCI, CIHR (project grant and early career investigator award), Prostate Cancer Foundation, Prostate Cancer Canada, Canadian Cancer Trials Group, Bladder Cancer Canada, and several contract research agreements with industry.

Dr. Wyatt’s laboratory team is physically housed at the Vancouver Prostate Centre located on the VCH campus. The Vancouver Prostate Centre is part of the Department of Urologic Sciences (FoM, UBC), and part of VCHRI. Dr. Wyatt’s current laboratory team consists of 6 graduate students, 2 technicians, and 3 clinical-research fellows, as well as several undergraduate appointments.

Current Research Focus

The Wyatt laboratory studies the genomics of lethal prostate cancer. Their overall objective is to use extensive experience in personalized prostate cancer genomics to enable real-time precision oncology in the clinic. The Wyatt lab performs a variety of innovative next-generation sequencing techniques on clinical specimens including tissue and liquid biopsies from men with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Ultimately, this will facilitate development of a suite of predictive biomarkers to allow selection of the best standard therapy for each patient. It will also reveal resistance mechanisms for existing treatments, and allow prioritization of patients at third-line for treatment with novel investigative agents.

Example Project

“Predicting Therapy Resistance in Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer with Circulating Tumor DNA”

The standard of care therapies for advanced prostate cancer, abiraterone and enzalutamide, are not effective in 20-40% of patients. Our unique research team combines cancer bioinformatics expertise with clinical oncology to develop genomic-based strategies that better recognize patients with poor prognoses. In this project we will look at changes occurring in the ctDNA of hundreds of Canadian men with prostate cancer that are being treated with abiraterone, enzalutamide and other therapies. We will determine which changes can predict a patient's subsequent response to treatment. Success with our project will help us understand why some cancers are intrinsically resistant to the most commonly used therapies. Furthermore, we will have developed a clinically-practical framework (requiring only a blood sample, rather than a metastatic tissue biopsy) that may ultimately help prioritize patients for other therapies that have an improved chance of success.

Research Keywords

Bioinformatics, Cell-Free DNA, Genomics, Immunotherapy, Liquid Biopsy, Precision Oncology