Research latest

NEW: Hope of new drugs

Scientists have taken a step towards developing a new type of drug that could help treat prostate cancer. A Scottish professor has spent a decade developing a chemical that could target a different protein in cancer cells compared with other treatments. If taken to clinical trials and deemed successful, the new drug could potentially not only stop the cancer from growing but also increase the effectiveness of other existing treatments (Feb ’20). See more here. And London researchers have found drug fragments which could help improve understanding of the function of a key cancer protein and ultimately lead to new drug treatments. The fragments identified in the work could be potential building blocks of future drugs. More here

Hope for ‘super responders’

A major trial of an immunotherapy drug has shown it can be effective in some advanced prostate cancer patients. The men had stopped responding to the main treatment options.  Researchers found that a small proportion of men, described as “super responders”, remained well even after the trial ended, despite a very poor prognosis before treatment. One in 20 men with advanced PCa responded to the drug pembrolizumab – and saw their tumours actually shrink or disappear. Although a relatively small number, some of them gained years of extra life, the study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found. And19% saw some evidence of improvement. The phase II clinical trial, led by the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden, involved 258 men with advanced prostate cancer who had run out of all other options on treatment (Nov 19). See more here

World first for drug

A Las Vegas man is the first in the world to begin prostate cancer treatment with a drug called Arvinas. Researchers associated with Yale University developed Arvinas to target the way a cancer cell survives (May ’19). Read more at

Gut bacteria might affect treatment

The millions of bacteria in the gut night have more to do with the effectiveness of prostate cancer treatment than we realise, says scientist Karen Sfanos, PhD. “The gut microbiome can influence cancer therapy by its ability to chemically modify drugs.” This relationship works both ways: “Cancer-fighting drugs can also alter the composition of the bacterial species that live in the gut – and this, in turn, may affect how well that treatment works.” See more here

Drug to fight resistance to treatment

The world’s first drugs aimed at stopping cancer cells becoming resistant to treatment could be available within the next decade, scientists have said. The Institute of Cancer Research have hailed the ‘Darwinian’ drug which will tackle cancer’s lethal ability to evolve and become resistant to treatment (May ’19). See more here

MRI scandal and spit test for at-risk men

Half of men are being denied access to the life-saving advanced MRI scan technique to spot prostate cancer, a Prostate Cancer UK investigation has found. Freedom of information requests to hospitals and health boards found that only 51 per cent of men have access to the scans. The responses also uncovered evidence of discrimination against older men. Prostate Cancer UK said the situation was ‘appalling’ (Jun ’18). See here. And a “very significant” spit test to detect men at increased risk of prostate cancer has started trials with 300 men taking part in London. Developing better diagnostic tests is a research priority. The trial was being expanded to 5,000 men in 2019 (Jun ’18). See here

Genes show increased risk

Institute of Cancer Research scientists in London have identified 23 genes in which inherited changes were associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, others with aggressive disease, and some with both. The research could be lead to a new screening test (Apr ’19). See more at

‘Spectacular’ breakthrough

Drugs that boost the immune system have saved the lives of some terminal prostate cancer patients, say UK doctors. The team at the Institute of Cancer Research and London’s Royal Marsden Hospital said the results of a trial were “spectacular” and a “big deal”. But the therapy will not work for most patients. Cancer Research UK said the next step was to predict who would respond. And the NHS is preparing to fast-track a “game-changing” cancer treatment, its chief executive has said, calling for the makers to make it affordable. Simon Stevens said CAR-T therapy, licensed in the US, could be approved for use in the UK this year. The expensive treatments work by genetically engineering the immune system’s killer T-cells to recognise and destroy cancer cells. The US cost is far in excess of the normal NHS ceiling of £50,000 for a lifesaving drug (Apr ’18). And a highly accurate and reliable technique for diagnosing prostate cancer is reported by a Dundee University-based team. Also a groundbreaking study has uncovered why some cancers are more deadly than others, despite appearing identical (Apr ’18).

Breath test for cancer being tried out

A Cancer Research UK-funded scientist from the MRC Cancer Unit at Cambridge University is leading a trial that’s looking to form a potential cancer test using person’s breath (Feb ’19). The report can be seen here. And Professor Paula Mendes hopes to make identifying aggressive cancers more accurate. The professor, who was awarded a Prostate Cancer UK Research Innovation Award, is developing a blood test to identify different forms of the PSA protein that are linked to more aggressive cancers. See more here

Aggressive cancer test sought

Birmingham University researchers have received a grant worth over £275,000 from Prostate Cancer UK. Their aim is to help develop a new test to accurately show how aggressive a man’s prostate cancer is in order to help identify the best treatment for each individual (Jan ’19). See here

Bid to save sexual potency

A technique is being trialled in London to reduce the risk of men losing their sexual potency from prostate cancer surgery. The next stage, due to start in January ’19, is to secure funding to recruit up to 400 patients and expand the trial to Bristol and Sheffield. See here.

‘Virtual tumour’ new way to see cancer

Scientists in Cambridge have built a virtual reality 3D model of cancer, providing a new way to look at the disease (Dec ’18).

Stampede trial a success

Radiotherapy could extend thousands of lives, the Stampede study found. The trial, based at University College London, dealt with men with locally-advanced cancer (Oct ’18). See here

Drug beats aggressive cancer

Men with aggressive drug-resistant prostate cancer could see their tumours eradicated by a new treatment using a drug called pembrolizumab, which is already used in lung cancer treatment (Sept ’18). See here

Two trials ‘destroy cancer’

Drug gets body cells to ‘eat and destroy’ cancer. The US team behind the study hope to begin human trials within a few years. See here. And US researchers have found a way to clear cancer in mice with immune-system stimulating injections. A report in the Science Translational Medicine Journal shows promise in terms of destroying tumours. The new approach is a form of immunotherapy. See here.

Radiotherapy visits cut

Men diagnosed with prostate cancer may potentially benefit from ‘radical radiotherapy’ that delivers treatment in five visits, a clinical trial led by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast has shown. Usually, 37 visits are necessary for the course of radiotherapy, however this trial used an advanced treatment called ‘SABR’ (Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy), which uses high doses per treatment and is highly accurate in targeting certain cancers (Aug ’18). See here.

Aggressive cancer breakthrough

US scientists have mapped out the DNA sequences of over 100 types of aggressive prostate cancer tumours. Some of the more aggressive ones are usually able to evade hormone treatment but the new findings help isolate the genetic mutations they carry which let them do this (July ’18). See here

Prostate surgery set to be revolutionised

Tiny remote-controlled ‘scalpels’ could revolutionise cancer surgery in five to 10 years. The first disease it is hoped to target is prostate cancer. The technique, researched at University College London, would be safer and less invasive than present methods. It combines the use of an MRI scanner and a tiny metal ball which is steered to the tumour using the scanner’s magnetic field. Once, there, radio waves heat it up to destroy the cancer (Jun ’18).

Blood research aids cancer fight

A UK team has been able to scour the blood for signs of cancer while it was just a tiny cluster of cells invisible to X-ray or CT scans. It should allow doctors to hit the tumour earlier and increase the chances of a cure (Apr ’18). See here. And US scientists have taken a step towards one of the biggest goals in medicine – a universal blood test for cancer (Apr ’18). See here. Scientists have also created a skin implant they say could one day be used to help detect some of the most common cancers (Apr ’18). See here. And a test that can detect trace levels of tumour cells in the blood could help spot early signs of treatment not working for men on abiraterone for advanced prostate cancer (Jul ’18). See here

Two big breakthroughs

The biggest leap in diagnosing prostate cancer “in decades” has been made using new advanced MRI scanners. See. Also this. But only a third of men can benefit, says Prostate Cancer UK. See here. And a prostate cancer vaccine is among trailblazing research being backed by the charity with £2.7m. See here.

Tumour aggressive or harmless?

A genetic breakthrough could spare thousands of men from needless prostate surgery and radiotherapy. Scientists have found a gene that determines whether a tumour is aggressive or relatively harmless – potentially paving the way for a blood test that will accurately forecast whether it could become deadly. (Sept ’18). See here

Brisk walking ‘lowers risk’

A US study found a link between brisk walking and lowered risk of prostate cancer progression. See here.

Prostate cancer subtypes identified

Researchers have identified and validated three distinct molecular subtypes of prostate cancer that correlate with distant metastasis-free survival. This can help in future research to determine how patients will respond to treatment, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology. Findings represent a step towards the implementation of personalised medicine in prostate cancer care. See here

Urine test created

Scientists have created a urine test for prostate cancer after Bristol trials. See here

Cancer and genes

There is strong evidence that certain men’s genes predispose them to prostate cancer. This has led to the development of a EU-wide targeted screening study in 18 countries.

Genetic variants which increase risk

The UK Genetic Prostate Cancer Study collects blood DNA samples from over 300 UK centres and is the leading effort to find genetic variants which increase prostate cancer risk. This study will last about another 7 years. It has made considerable advances in discovering genetic variants which have led to targeted treatments.

Tumour-causing genes fused by male hormones

Scientists at the Institute of Cancer at Queen Mary University of London have found that male hormones play a key role in promoting a specific genetic change that fuels tumour growth. Identifying the genes that are regulated by these hormones is a major step forward in finding new therapies. The study focused on male sex hormones called androgens, which cause genes that are normally far apart to fuse together. The team found that androgens promote the fusion of two specific genes which fuel cancer growth.

Early warning proteins discovered

Bristol University researchers have identified two ‘growth factor’ proteins present in higher levels in prostate cancer patients. The proteins normally regulate growth and development in organs and tissue, especially in the womb and during childhood. Dr Mari-Anne Rowlands, a cancer epidemiologist and lead author of the study, said it was too early to be certain but these results suggested they might have identified potential new biomarkers for very early prostate cancer in men with no symptoms. More research was needed.

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