A gene therapy treatment for advanced prostate cancer

University of BelfastDr Helen McCarthy£95,3142010 - 2013

Why we funded it

With only palliative options for treatment-resistant advanced prostate cancer this research offers the chance of a treatment for this disease. This is a novel avenue of research which to date has been shown to work. The research being undertaken has potential with a strong chance of reaching clinical trials within the next 3-5 years. This is highly relevant to those men with advanced prostate cancer who are seeking other options because of treatment failure.


Scientific title

A bio-inspired gene therapy approach to treat metastatic prostate cancer


Research project summary

The term 'gene therapy' refers to any approach to cancer treatment that involves changing the activity of genes within cancer cells.  Cancer gene therapy has been a focus of research for over a decade and has huge potential for treating advanced (metastatic) prostate cancer because of the possibility of targeting tumours wherever they are in the body.  To date, most attempts at cancer gene therapy have not worked because there has been no effective carrier to transport the gene therapy around the body and protect it in the bloodstream.

This project will look at an innovative type of carrier system constructed from the natural building blocks of proteins (amino acids) that Dr McCarthy believes will overcome this hurdle.  The student working on this project will attempt to use the carrier to deliver a toxic gene, called iNOS, to prostate cancer cells in culture and to mouse prostate tumours.

It is hoped that the project will show that this new gene carrier is stable in blood, does not attract an immune response and can deliver a gene that is active in cancer cells but not healthy cells.  Although this is a complex and innovative line of research, every individual component of this gene therapy strategy has so far been shown to work.  This project will put them all together.  At the end of this project the researchers aim to have produced much of the pre-clinical data necessary to go forward into early human trials.