Cardiff scientists

An exciting new direction...

This Research review shows the exciting scientific advances we've been making in 2015-16 to help us tame prostate cancer within the next ten years. Below are some of the main highlights, but you can download the full review as a pdf.

This year, our research programme has been through a period of considerable change, and we’re really excited about our new direction. We want researchers to come to us with something we’ve never seen before; the outside-the-box thinking that could bring in the big rewards for men with prostate cancer.

- Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research, Prostate Cancer UK

Science in numbers

Funding by award type:

  • £2,014,771 – Translational awards
  • £453,674 – PhD studentships
  • £310,206 – Strategic award to improve diagnosis
  • £210,216 – Travelling Prize Fellowship

Funding by strategy arm:

  • £2,164,681 – Better treatment
  • £644,157 – Better diagnosis
  • £126,050 – Better diagnosis and better treatment
  • £83,979 – Better prevention

What our funding achieved in 2015-16

Our researchers published 63 scientific papers acknowledging our funding.

Other researchers referenced our funded research 1,410 times in their own publications.

Our researchers secured over £19 million of follow-on grants from other funders to take research we've funded closer to benefiting men with prostate cancer.

Our researchers filed two patent applications – the first step in developing a commercially viable product.

One of our researchers set up a spin-off company. This can sometimes be the quickest way to secure private investment and make the products of research more widely available.

Translational Research Awards

Our aim in funding research is to find answers that make tangible imporvements for men affected by prostate cancer. Through our new Translational Research Awards scheme, we aim to fund research that takes early-stage basic discoveries that we or others have previously funded a stage closer to making a difference to men.

We have funded Professor Johann de Bono at The Institute of Cancer Research to develop a genetic test for aggressive prostate cancer. We hope this will make significant steps towards tailoring prostate cancer treatments for the individual man and his cancer, helping work out the best treatment to have – or avoid – and the right time to have it.

Thanks to the Movember Foundation, we've also funded two other Translational Research Awards.

Dr Gerhardt Attard, also at The Institute of Cancer Research, will run a clinical trial called PARADIGM. The aim is to determine whether a simple blood test that looks for changes in the Androgen Receptor gene can determine the treatment that’s most likely to work for a man with advanced, hormone-resistant prostate cancer.

Dr Andrew Feber, at University College London, will validate a new test he's developed, which looks at prostate cancer specific DNA modifications that can be detected in the blood. He will compare this test to the current standard of PSA test and biopsy to see if it could be quicker, cheaper, less invasive and more accurate. 

A prostate cancer risk prediction tool

Thanks to the generous donations and hard work of our supporters, we're funding Dr Chris Parker to lead an international team of scientists from the UK, Netherlands, Canada and the USA.

They will develop a risk assessment tool to work with GPs' existing computer software to give a better indication of a man’s risk of having aggressive prostate cancer. It will then give men and their GPs clear instructions about what to do next: whether that’s to go straight to a urologist for further investigation, not worry about further testing for another few years, or something in between.

Thank you to Prostate Cancer UK for taking a global leadership role in this important area of prostate cancer risk. I am truly confident that this is not only achievable, but will massively improve the outlook for men at risk of prostate cancer.

- Professor Robert Nam, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto

Personal awards

Thanks to the Movember Foundation, we’ve awarded four new PhD studentships that will fill a specific gap in our prostate cancer research. There aren’t enough researchers with expertise in both statistics and prostate cancer, so this scheme was designed to train bioinformaticians to PhD level and build a talent pool of future experts.

  • Claudia Buhigas, supervised by Dr Daniel Brewer, University of East Anglia
    The prostate cancer 'field effect' could hold the key to understanding how many different cancers can form apparently independently in the same prostate. But very little is known about exactly what the field effect is or how it might work. Claudia will hone her expertise in data analysis so that she can develop mathematical and computer models to better understand this process, and how it might predispose the prostate to become cancerous.
  • Sharmila Rana, supervised by Dr Hector Keun, Imperial College London
    MicroRNAs are small chains of genetic material that can influence when and where particular genes are turned off or on, which can in turn affect cell behavior. Sharmila will collate information about microRNAs from researchers around the world, then use the latest statistical analysis and computer modelling techniques to extract the data that could help us understand which prostate cancers are aggressive, and which might respond best, or be resistant to, certain types of treatment.
  • George Seed, supervised by Professor Johann de Bono, Institute of Cancer Research
    Professor de Bono's team has been involved in a huge number of clinical trials of new prostate cancer treatments. This means that they now have a huge 'bank' of genetic data from prostate cancer biopsy and blood samples, which George will collate and analyse to work out which treatments, and which clinical trials, might work best for each man.
  • Ronnie Rodrigues Pereira, supervised by Dr Crispin Miller, University of Manchester
    Ronnie will use high-powered computational techniques to build predictive models of how particular treatments might affect gene activity, which would in turn influence how cancer cells behave. They hope that this will allow them to predict with far greater accuracy than is possible now how an individual patient will react to a particular treatment before they give it to them.

Also, jointly with the Academy of Medical Sciences, we have awarded a starter grant to Dr Adam Sharp at The Institute of Cancer Research. He will use his Movember-funded Starter Grant to identify proteins that bind to one end of the Androgen Receptor, a key driver for prostate cancer growth. These proteins may help the cancer to become resistant to hormone therapy, so understanding them could open up a new avenue for drug discovery.

Where are they now?

Our Personal Awards are designed to nurture the next generation of scientific experts, maintaining the level of interest, investment and expertise in prostate cancer research into the future. This year, we conducted a follow-up survey of previous award holders and asked the question: where are you now?

  • 76% responded to the survey
  • 77% of the respondents remain in research
  • 60% of those in research are still focused on prostate cancer

Dr Niall Byrne, a PhD student in Professor Stephanie McKeown’s lab at the University of Ulster from 2009 to 2012, is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Garvan Institute in Sydney. His current research focuses on how dormant cells in the bone may contribute to the spread of prostate cancer in disease that’s returned after a first treatment.

My Prostate Cancer UK PhD studentship provided the much-needed support and training essential to a career in medical research. My PhD was critical in securing my position at the highly renowned Garvan Institute in Sydney, continuing my work in prostate cancer research.

- Dr Niall Byrne


Alice Hartley, a Urology Registrar, held a one-year Movember Foundation-funded Prostate Cancer UK & Royal College of Surgeons Clinical Training Fellowship in Professor Craig Robson’s lab at Newcastle University. She used the information and skills she learned during this fellowship to successfully apply for a Cancer Research UK Clinical Research Grant to continue her work into a PhD.

I am continuing with the project I started whilst on my Prostate Cancer UK / RCS grant. This is now a PhD and I am studying the expression of embryonic stem cell factors in circulating tumour cells from metastatic prostate cancer patients.

- Alice Hartley


Alice Hartley 
Dr Satoshi Hori completed a Prostate Cancer UK-MRC Clinical Training Fellowship with Professors David Neal and Vincent Gnanapragasam at the University of Cambridge from 2011 to 2014. His current research goal is to develop new strategies for the early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.

I have now obtained my PhD and FRCS (Urol) and am nearing the end of my Higher Urology Surgical training. During my current Academic Clinical Lectureship, I intend to obtain further training in prostate cancer surgery to a Fellowship level and to further my research experience and portfolio in prostate cancer.

- Dr Satoshi Hori

Thank you

Thank you to all the researchers, peer reviewers, volunteers, fundraisers and supporters who have contributed to the success of our research programme this year. In particular, we’d like to thank the members of our Research Advisory Committee, Research Strategy Group, and Grants Advisory Pane. Because of you, we were awarded a Certificate of Best Practice by the Association of Medical Research Charities for having 'the highest standards of accountability and probity in the allocation of grants and awards for research'.

Thank you also to the Trusts, Foundations and individual donors, including those who choose to remain anonymous, who have made such a difference this year:

  • Mike Gooley Trailfinders Charity
  • The Margaret Rolfe Charitable Trust
  • The Philip King Charitable Trust
  • Robert Luff Foundation Limited
  • The Eranda Rothschild Foundation
  • Hospital Saturday Fund
  • George A Moore Foundation
  • Holbeck Charitable Trust
  • Tom and Sheila Springer Charity
  • The Stanley Grundy Foundation Limited
  • Peacock Charitable Trust
  • Lord Barnby's Foundation
  • Garfield Weston Foundation
  • The Hugh Fraser Foundation
  • The Steel Charitable Trust
  • Hoover Foundation
  • Scott Eredine Charitable Trust
  • J P Moulton Charitable Foundation
  • The Patrick & Helena Frost Foundation
  • Cadogan Charity
  • Pam Chaplin
  • John Stokes
  • Paul Thompson
  • Aslam Merchant
  • Edward Clucas
  • Gareth Hughes  
  • The Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride

A special thanks also to our funding partners, the Movember Foundation. The Movember Foundation is the leading global organisation committed to changing the face of men’s health. Prostate Cancer UK is the main beneficiary of the Movember campaign in the UK. For the last ten years, the amazing efforts of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas from across the UK have significantly contributed to our research initiatives and have supported men by investing in our services.

We’d also like to say a special thank you to the Pioneers, a vital part of Prostate Cancer UK and an exceptional group of highly motivated individuals.  Like us, they envisage a dramatically different future for men with prostate cancer. By pledging regular support, they invest in world-class research for effective diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

For more information about joining the Pioneers, please contact caroline.gellatly@prostatecanceruk.org

Becoming a Pioneer is much more than a commitment to donate. It’s a commitment to be part of a powerful network of leaders driving a movement for change.

- Professor Mark Emberton, Founder Pioneer, Dean of UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences and Honorary Consultant Urologist UCLH NHS Foundation Trust