This month, together with the Movember Foundation, we’re announcing over £2 million of funding for innovative and exciting research projects that we believe will one day help improve the lives of men with prostate cancer. These Movember Foundation Project Grants and Pilot Awards cover all areas of our research strategy, from identifying men at risk of aggressive prostate cancer to developing new treatments for advanced disease.
Project Grants are awarded to established researchers with a strong track record, who have already gathered strong enough initial results to suggest that the project is likely to be successful.
Pilot Awards on the other hand are more risky. These are given to researchers who have a good idea, but no early data to support it. These smaller pots of money allow the researchers to gather the supporting data they need to apply for a bigger grant later on.
This year, we especially welcomed research proposals that looked to improve management of side-effects and late-effects of prostate cancer treatment. We were also keen to have applications from researchers wanting to answer the question of why Black men are more at risk of prostate cancer than white men. And three of the projects we’re funding fit into one of these two highlight notices.
We gave a Pilot Award to Professor Myra McClure at Imperial College London, who wants to investigate the possibility that the higher rates of prostate cancer in African and African Caribbean men are because of a virus infection.
Viruses have been linked to other cancer types – for example Human Papilloma Virus and cervical cancer. And historically, there have been other examples of viral infections clustering in certain parts of the world, and therefore in people of a certain ethnicity. Over a long period of time, genetic material from the virus can become embedded within human DNA, where it can be passed on down through the generations.
So far, there’s no evidence of a viral link to prostate cancer, but Professor McClure wants to look at the RNA sequence (a type of genetic material, like DNA) of a group of African and African Caribbean men and see whether there is any viral DNA mixed in with it. If there is, she will then go on to work out whether this is linked to prostate cancer in these men.
We awarded a Project Grant to Professor Elizabeth Grunfeld at Coventry University, who is investigating what puts men at risk of a drop in cognitive ability (thinking skills and memory) after hormone therapy. We hope that finding this out would enable men and their doctors to make an informed decision about who is most or least suitable for this sort of treatment. The information from this research will also be really important to develop effective ways to manage, control or prevent the side effects of hormone therapy on thinking skills.
Professor George Lewith and his team at the University of Southampton are planning to test a new intervention designed to reduce anxiety for men on active surveillance. They hope that this could stop many men on active surveillance deciding to have clinically unnecessary surgery (surgery which, according to medical evidence, they don’t need). In this project it will be tested at two sites to see if it works, whether it needs changing, and if it can be rolled out in a large national trial. This last stage is necessary to test if it could be offered as standard NHS care.
These are just three of the projects we’ve funded in this grant round. You can read more about other research we’re funding in our new awards section of our website. We’ll let you know what happens with these, and the other exciting projects we’ve funded, as we hear more.