24 Jan 2012

Research into prostate cancer has been given a 'critical' boost as The Prostate Cancer Charity today (24th January) announces its largest investment in research into the disease to date.

Spread over 15 projects from across the UK, the Charity is investing over £2 million in an attempt to target some of the most important research challenges facing the disease today, from helping to prevent prostate cancer through to improving the diagnosis and treatment options available to men.

Speaking about their landmark investment, Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, explains: "Despite being the most common cancer in men, the research evidence surrounding prostate cancer is limited and the Charity's new research portfolio underlines our commitment to finding answers to this often complex and confusing disease.

"Over the past three years the Charity has more than trebled our investment in research as government funded research into the disease continues to lag behind that of other common cancers. Through our research portfolio we are proud to be working alongside some of the UKs top scientists to balance out this inequality and tackle some of the critical gaps in knowledge surrounding the disease, to ensure men and their families get the answers they need."

The Charity will be funding projects from across the country at institutions including the University of Bradford, University of Cambridge, University of Glasgow, Institute of Cancer Research, and Imperial College London.

It is hoped that a number of projects will be able to significantly improve the care and treatment of men with prostate cancer in the near future, including that led by Dr Dean Barratt, Senior Lecturer, at University College London which looks at improving how the disease is diagnosed.

Dr Barratt said: "Due to the location of the prostate gland itself, the process of diagnosing cancer is a delicate and stressful time for any man who suspects they may have the disease. Through this project, which looks at developing an improved approach for performing needle biopsy by a new kind of ultrasound imaging, we hope to dramatically improve biopsy accuracy and reduce the number of tissue samples required to establish an accurate diagnosis. The result, we hope, will be a shorter and more comfortable procedure for men, which is easier for doctors to perform."

The Charity is also funding projects to drive forward new ways of controlling forms of the disease which are not currently treatable. These include that led by Dr Helen Sheldrake - RCUK Research Fellow at the University of Bradford, which looks in to how to stop prostate cancer spreading to the bone once it has stopped responding to existing treatments.

Dr Sheldrake explains: "For men whose cancer has stopped responding to hormone therapy, further treatment possibilities are currently extremely limited, meaning that ways to extend their lives beyond this point are also reduced. Although currently some way off, the findings from this study could be incredibly powerful in bringing us closer to finding new treatments which are so urgently needed."

The fifteen grants were awarded via a competitive process of peer review and chosen due to their extremely high quality and relevance to men with prostate cancer.

The Prostate Cancer Charity has a strong history of supporting the delivery of world class research and has invested over £12 million to date.

Read more about the research projects.

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