New Urology Researcher Brings Enthusiasm and New Ideas

Bringing enthusiasm, new ideas, and an ambitious research agenda with him, Dr. Will Ricke is settling into his new life in Madison and his role as a scientist in the UW Health Urology department.


His major goals include further strengthening urologic research at the University of Wisconsin and training the next generation of scientists and clinician-scientists.


Dr. Ricke comes to UW-Madison from the University of Rochester, where he held a faculty appointment. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in prostate biology at the UC-San Francisco, and earned a PhD in endocrinology from the University of Missouri.


UW Health urology researcher Will RickeDr. Ricke's current research efforts are focused on urogenital tract cancer, the role of endocrine disruptors in both cancer and benign disease, and lower urinary tract symptoms related to benign prostatic hyperplasia. He is the principal investigator on current National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences initiatives and is presently submitting other applications.


With a laboratory in the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research building, Dr. Ricke and his team are making inroads into prostate stromalepithelial interactions using a number of mouse models that replicate important aspects of human cancer in mice.


A unique contribution of their work is the recent finding that testosterone activation of androgen receptors in stromal cells (supporting cells) appears to dictate whether prostate epithelial cells (cells that become the cancer) develop into carcinomas. This is unique, Dr. Ricke notes, because most studies focus on epithelial cells, not stromal cells.


Dr. Ricke's findings and potential application to men are strengthened by the fact that his lab utilizes human cells in their mouse models. He anticipates that this preclinical work will lead to clinical trials with future new therapeutics, and is developing clinical collaborations in this direction.


Other ongoing research in the Ricke lab is focused on a public health problem with potentially huge impact. The widespread use of bisphenol A (BPA) in our food packaging, food storage containers, and in such applications as tooth fillings, has caused concern as it is now known to contribute to prostate pathology. Due to its estrogen-like effects, BPA is thought to be involved in such health problems as early maturation and puberty, urine flow disorders, prostate enlargement and prostate cancer.


BPA is nearly ubiquitous in the environment and is found in the blood and urine of nearly all Americans. Our lifelong exposure to it, Dr. Ricke points out, begins during gestation. Dr. Ricke is well-suited to pursue this line of research with his expertise in hormone action in carcinogenesis and reproduction.


Dr. Ricke says he is excited by the opportunities that exist at the UW-Madison. He specifically notes access to clinical and translational collaborators within the Department of Urology and elsewhere in the School of Medicine and Public Health as strengths in his research agenda.


Date published: 4/20/2011