UofG co-leads ‘first of its kind’ prostate cancer study

Published: 2 November 2017

Glasgow researchers co-lead ‘first of its kind’ study to extend lives of men with terminal prostate cancer

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are set to co-lead a new precision medicine study for prostate cancer as part of a major new research programme launched today by men’s health charity, Prostate Cancer UK.Prostate cancer cells

The research drive will tailor treatments for men based on the genetic make-up of their cancer - a move which has the potential to extend the lives of 9,000 men every year in the UK. It marks a significant shift from the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment, towards identifying what drives an individual man’s cancer, and which drugs will work best to stop it in its tracks.

In its first move, Prostate Cancer UK has awarded £1.4million to a nationwide study led by a consortium of researchers across the country including in Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester and London. The researchers will focus on developing targeted treatment pathways specifically for men with advanced disease not yet resistant to hormone therapy. The study, which has been co-funded by Prostate Cancer UK, the Movember Foundation and the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride will tackle three key issues:

1. Identify changes in the DNA make up of prostate cancer cells not yet resistant to hormone therapy, that are responsible for driving the cancer cell growth.
2. Develop a test which can easily detect these genetic changes.
3. Establish which drugs best target the genetic changes and prevent the cancer from spreading further.

Dr Robert Jones, Professor of Clinical Cancer Research, University of Glasgow, is leading the study. He said;

“Prostate cancer affects every patient in a different way and on many levels. Some of these differences are due the different biological makeup of the tumour itself which varies from one individual to the next. Current treatments don’t take these biological differences into account – which probably explains why they work less well in some than others.

“It’s already becoming clear in other common cancers, including cancers of the breast, lung and colon, that better outcomes can be achieved if we test the individual patient’s tumour biology and then select the most appropriate treatment. This approach enables the patient to receive the best treatment for them, whilst sparing them the side effects of treatment that doesn’t work.”

Paul Villanti, Executive Director of Programmes, Movember Foundation: “We have witnessed a rapid acceleration in our understanding of the genetic make-up of prostate cancer in recent years and the Movember Foundation is delighted to now fund this world-class research that will build upon these advances in knowledge to identify practical applications that benefit men with more targeted and timely treatments. This will drive the better outcomes these men and their families so critically need, and we thank the Movember community for all that they are doing to change the face of men’s health.”

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Every man’s prostate cancer is unique to him and so not surprisingly the way men respond to treatments varies enormously. Clinicians are in effect left to treat patients ‘in the dark’ – with little idea as to which treatments will work best for which men.

“However, this new research programme could be game changing, providing clinicians with the much clearer picture they desperately need. It will enable them to go straight to the right treatment for each individual man, saving precious time for those men who often have little time left.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with over 47,000 new diagnoses every year in the UK. Around a quarter of these are diagnosed after the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, reducing the chances of successful treatment and survival.

Men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer are typically treated with hormone therapy, and move on to life extending treatments such as Docetaxel, Abiraterone and Enzalutamide once hormone therapy has stopped working. The first study of Prostate Cancer UK’s precision medicine programme will specifically focus on men with advanced prostate cancer before it has become resistant to hormone therapy.

Dr Frame continued; “This is the first time ever that this precision approach has been used to treat men at this stage of disease. We know from other studies involving men with advanced prostate cancer that starting additional treatments alongside hormone therapy before resistance develops can prolong their life – sometimes significantly. We want to build on that, and establish which combinations work the best for which men, develop additional new treatments and help extend more lives.”


Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk or elizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk // 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

First published: 2 November 2017