Research into prostate cancer receives a major boost as The Prostate Cancer Charity announces its largest research investment into the disease to date.
Researchers from the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen will lead on three of the 15 projects from across the UK to be funded by The Prostate Cancer Charity. The Charity is investing over £2 million in an attempt to target some of the most important research challenges facing prostate cancer, from helping to diagnose the disease through to improving treatment options and quality of life for men living with it.
Speaking about the landmark investment Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: “Despite being the most common cancer in men the research evidence surrounding prostate cancer is limited. The Charity’s new research portfolio underlines our commitment to finding answers to this often complex and confusing disease.
“Over the past three years the Charity has more than trebled its investment in research whilst government funded research into the disease continues to lag behind that of other common cancers. Through our research portfolio we are proud to be working alongside some of the UK’s top scientists to balance out this inequality and tackle some of the critical gaps in knowledge surrounding the disease to ensure men and their families get the answers they need.”
In addition to pumping over £360,000 into two projects at the University of Glasgow and one at the University of Aberdeen The Prostate Cancer Charity is funding research at - amongst other institutions - Cambridge University, Imperial College London, Kings College London and the Institute of Cancer Research.
Professor Iain McEwan from the University of Aberdeen has received £81,634 for a 3 year PhD study to identify new drugs for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. He said: “Men with advanced prostate cancer have limited treatment options, further hampered by prostate cancer’s ability to develop resistance to standard treatments. There is a clear need to invest in research to focus on new ways to control and treat advanced prostate cancer, and this funding from The Prostate Cancer Charity will allow us to focus our attention on testing a new approach for developing drugs to block the activity of a protein called the androgen receptor.”
Dr Joanna Edwards from the University of Glasgow’s Beatson Institute has received £130,220 for a 2 year study into what makes men with prostate cancer stop responding to therapy. She said: “This funding is a fantastic boost and will hopefully further our understanding of why prostate cancer therapy begins to fail, at which point the disease progresses more quickly and survival is reduced. If we can establish the cause of treatment failure, and identify novel proteins within prostate cancer cells, we will be better placed to develop new drugs to act against the disease.”
Professor Hing Leung from the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, University of Glasgow and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has received £150,812 for a 3 year project to identify how certain molecules promote the growth of prostate cancer. He said: “This project will use human prostate cancer samples to study the activity of the molecules Sprouty2 and PI3/AKT in prostate cancer. The aim is to develop targeted and individual treatment plans for men using these two molecules by understanding how they work together to drive aggressive prostate cancer, and their role in cancer developing resistance to standard treatments. Better understanding of lethal prostate cancer, particularly in relationship to cancer spread and drug-resistance, is key to future development of effective drugs aimed at improving patient outcome.”
The fifteen grants were awarded via a competitive process of peer review and chosen on the basis of their extremely high quality and relevance to men with prostate cancer.
The Prostate Cancer Charity has a strong history of supporting the delivery of world class research and has invested over £12 million to date.
Notes to Editors
1. Research projects announced by The Prostate Cancer Charity
Scottish research projects are as follows:
Institution:University of Aberdeen
Title:New Drug Targets for the Treatment of Advanced Prostate Cancer,/p>
This project aims to identify and develop new drug targets to block the activity of a protein that interacts with the male hormone testosterone, known as the androgen receptor, which is known to drive the growth of prostate cancer in the presence of testosterone, but also in the absence of testosterone when the cancer is no longer responding to hormone therapy. The aim is to demonstrate that the androgen receptor represents a novel drug target. The present proposal could identify new drug targets that will allow the androgen receptor to be switched off.
Institution:University of Glasgow – Beatson Institute
Title:What changes occur to make certain men with prostate cancer stop responding to therapy.
This study will investigate why some men with prostate cancer stop responding to treatment. The team plan to use prostate cancer specimens taken from men before treatment and after the men no longer respond to treatment to investigate what changes occur. Once identified, these changes will be altered and/or manipulated to see if this will stop the cancer from further growth. If successful this project could provide alternative ways of treating prostate cancer.
Institution:University of Glasgow – Beatson Institute
Title:How do the signalling molecules Sprouty2 and PI3/AKT promote growth of prostate cancer?
This project will use prostate tumour samples to study the molecules Sprouty2 and PI3/AKT, and how they work together to cause aggressive prostate cancer and its spread, which ultimately develops into cancer which no longer responds to hormone therapy. Better understanding of this critical topic in prostate cancer will allow us to develop better treatment.
Research projects from elsewhere in the UK are as follows:
Institution:University of Bradford,/p>
Title:A new treatment for advanced prostate cancer with improved response and low side effects
The aim of this project is to develop new types of drugs for prostate cancer will have a much better effect against the tumour and will have fewer side effects than current treatments. The team are developing a drug which is inactive in the body until coming in to contact with the tumour at which point specific proteins in the tumour cells will cause the release of a potent toxic chemical. This targeted method will lead to more effective treatment and better quality of life for men with advanced prostate cancer.
Institution:Institute of Cancer Research
Title:A new approach to testing markers of prostate cancer
This study is aimed at providing better markers to test for prostate cancer and to distinguish between aggressive and so-called ‘indolent’ forms of prostate cancer. There is an urgent need for better markers of significant prostate cancer in order to more clearly define who should or should not have a biopsy. The team will be using a unique strategy of testing such markers on men who have a template mapping biopsy which allows them to accurately assess the presence or absence of prostate cancer, its size and grade.
Institution: Imperial College London
Title:Towards a novel therapy for prostate cancer
The study is for improved treatments for advanced cancer that is no longer responding to hormone treatments. The study proposal is to develop small molecules to increase levels of a protein called prohibitin in prostate tumours with the aim of inhibiting tumour growth. Ultimately, the aim is to try and offer a new therapy that could be used as an alternative to existing therapies and/or be used in combination with hormone therapies to improve their efficacy.
Institution:University College London
Title:Improving Needle Biopsy for Men affected by Prostate Cancer
The project proposal is to develop a new improved approach to guiding needle biopsy that will allow tissue samples to be collected in a targeted fashion with much higher accuracy than can be achieved using existing techniques. The project plan is to build and evaluate a new device for performing transrectal needle biopsy of the prostate. It is hoped that this so-called “targeted biopsy” strategy will lead to a shorter and less uncomfortable procedure since fewer samples will be required to establish a diagnosis.
Institution:University of Bradford
Title:A potential new treatment for advanced prostate cancer
The aim of this research is to develop a treatment to stop advanced prostate cancer from spreading and growing in the bone. The research will seek to develop small molecules which block a particular type of protein - β3 integrins - involved in allowing prostate cancer to survive, grow, and spread through the blood stream and into the bones. This is a pilot award (short study) that will allow the research team to perform preliminary tests to identify which of a group of pre-selected molecules can be used as tools to block both integrin receptors, and thus begin to test their effects on cancer.
Institution: University of Cambridge
Lay Title:The role of autophagy in the progression of prostate cancer and resistance to current treatments.
This project focuses on the role played by a mechanism called ‘autophagy’ in prostate cancer cells, and whether altering this process could be used to treat the cancer. Autophagy is a process that tightly regulates cell growth by enabling the death of older cells, and the recycling of their components for the growth of new cells. The aim of this project is to test whether autophagy plays a role in the initiation, progression and recurrence of prostate cancer, and whether it provides protection against drug treatments. The information generated by this study could allow the development of new drugs capable of altering autophagy in prostate cancer for use alone, or in combination with existing drug treatments.
Institution:University of Aberystwyth
Title:Improved initial diagnosis and localisation of prostate cancer.
This project will investigate if the combination of magnetic resonance (MRI) and ultrasound information can provide improved initial diagnosis and localisation of prostate cancer. The study aims to improve diagnostic methods for prostate cancer, and also aims to improve staging and prognosis of the disease to assist treatment decision-making.
Institution:University of Bath
Title:Targeting a protein to treat prostate cancer that is no longer responding to hormone therapy.
The project is to study an important protein in prostate cancer, known as AMACR. High levels of the AMACR protein are found in all prostate cancers, and reducing the levels or interfering with its function stops the cancer from growing in experimental models. The initial aim is to establish exactly what the protein does in the cancer, and how it works. More importantly the study plans to produce new approaches that will stop the protein from working, which can be later optimized to produce new prostate cancer treatments.
Institution:University of Belfast
Title:Improving radiotherapy treatment of prostate cancer
The study aims to improve the effects of radiotherapy treatment of prostate cancer by testing the effects of drugs that inhibit the repair of damaged DNA, and testing the impact of the loss of the protein called PTEN, which is known to play a role in treatment failure. The PTEN protein normally acts to prevent prostate tumours from forming and but is found to be defective in many prostate tumours, and may also play a role in making tumours less sensitive to being killed by radiation exposure. The study aims to try and make these tumours more sensitive to radiotherapy. The project could eventually lead to new treatments for advanced prostate cancer that is no longer responding to other treatments, and for which currently there is no effective cure.
Institution:Kings College London
Lay Title:Helping men to manage hot flushes and night sweats following prostate cancer treatments.
This is a study to find out if a self-management treatment can reduce hot flushes and night sweats for men with prostate cancer. The project will develop a Self-Help intervention to help prostate cancer survivors who are living with some of the effects of prostate cancer treatments. The treatment is a 4 week programme with a self-help book and CD with information and advice and phone contacts.
Institution:Oxford Brookes University
Lay Title:A pilot study of a nurse-led intervention in primary care providing tailored advice and support to prostate cancer survivors on emotional and physical issues.
Men with prostate cancer can experience a range of problems that reduce their quality of life in the long term. This project will test a nurse-led intervention aimed at identifying and dealing with any symptoms, side effects, emotional or sexual issues that occur following diagnosis and treatment. In line with current guidance on follow-up care for men whose disease is stable, the service will be delivered in primary care, through local health care services rather than through specialist hospital cancer care. The study will look at whether the nurse-led service can help improve quality of life for men 12-24 months after a prostate cancer diagnosis, offering individualised advice and support and referral to other services where necessary. This is an initial pilot trial, the essential first step towards determining whether a new type of support service is clinically useful and cost-effective.
Institution:University of Cambridge
Title:Targeting growth factors in prostate cancer
This project will test if increasing levels of a gene called Sef in prostate cancer cells can improve the efficacy of current treatments that block molecules called growth factors, and thus prevent prostate cancer progression. Some with prostate cancer will develop an advanced form of disease that no longer responds to hormone therapy. This process is driven in part by growth factors. This project is to investigate Sef which functions as a strong natural inhibitor of growth factors. The aim is to test if increasing Sef in prostate tumours can enhance treatment designed to block growth factors. If successful, this may offer a new way to treat men with advanced prostate cancer.
2. The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in Scotland.
2,700 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Scotland and 19,000 Scottish men are currently living with the disease.
Two men die of prostate cancer every day in Scotland.
The Prostate Cancer Charity is striving for a world where lives are no longer limited by prostate cancer. The Charity is fighting prostate cancer on every front - through research, support, information and campaigning.
African Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men.
Anyone concerned about prostate cancer can call The Prostate Cancer Charity's free and confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383. The Helpline is staffed by specialist nurses and is open from 10am to 4pm on Monday to Friday and from 7 to 9pm on Wednesdays. Alternatively please visit www.prostate-cancer.org.uk