The old saying, ‘two heads are better than one’, is no less true in science than anywhere else. In fact, collaboration is a major driver of research – pooling resources and expertise to get the job done better and faster.
Prostate Cancer UK and our funding partner, Movember, are working in collaboration with several other research organisations, including the College of Radiographers, The Royal College of Surgeons, and the Medical Research Council. Together, we are awarding grants that will allow medical professionals, such as radiographers and urologists, to train as research scientists, bringing the expertise and experience of the men and women on the front line of treating prostate cancer to help target research just where it’s needed.
The first Prostate Cancer UK and Movember funded Royal College of Surgeons Clinical Training Fellowship, was awarded to Miss Alice Hartley, a consultant urologist at Newcastle University.
Alice’s project focuses on developing a new way to predict how patients will respond to hormone therapy. This is a common treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer, but the side effects can be unpleasant, and some men respond better to hormone therapy than others. At the moment it takes quite a while to see how well someone is responding to hormone therapy. So, some men have to put up with difficult side effects of a treatment that isn’t really working for months. Spotting this quickly, or even before starting the treatment, will give clinicians and patients more time to find a better option, and save men from unnecessary side effects.
Alice aims to develop a simple blood test to predict a man’s response to hormone therapy. The test will measure the levels of proteins called transcription factors in circulating tumour cells (CTCs), which are cells that have broken away from the main bulk of the tumour and now float around the blood system.
Transcription factors work by binding to DNA and turning on or off certain genes, or instructions, in the cell. In prostate cancer cells, high levels of certain transcription factors are linked to aggressive cancer.
Alice hopes that measuring the levels of these transcription factors in the blood will help predict how aggressive the prostate cancer will be, and how it will respond to therapy.
Prostate Cancer UK and Movember have also collaborated with the Medical Research Council to award a Clinical Research Fellowship to Dr Deborah Enting at King’s College London. Deborah’s project will explore how we can use our own immune system to fight prostate cancer, with fewer side effects than current therapy options. She’ll be looking at a protein called NKGD2, which is found on normal immune cells in the body. NKGD2 binds to another protein that is found on the surface of cancer cells, and this sends a message to the immune system to kill the cancer cell – without harming the healthy cells surrounding it.
This project will build on earlier research that suggests that boosting NKG2D levels may help the body to fight off cancer.
Deborah will look at how NKG2D works, whether it’s different in patients with aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancer and how hormone therapy and chemotherapy affect it. The overall aim of the project is to see if they can improve how the immune system responds when the NKGD2 receptor detects a cancer cell.
We awarded the first Prostate Cancer UK, Movember-funded Clinical Training Fellowship in collaboration with the College of Radiographers to James Stirling earlier this year and the second round of applications for this award are now open, closing February 2014.
Dr Kate Holmes, Head of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, says, ‘We’re delighted to be supporting these clinicians as they establish their careers in prostate cancer research. It’s so important for doctors on the front-line of patient care to become involved in the cutting edge research that will ultimately provide game-changing new treatments and diagnostics for men with prostate cancer. We’re proud to be working in partnership with major UK organisations and setting an example of how collaboration can forge the way to success.’
We’re really pleased to have recruited new players to the team of scientists and doctors fighting prostate cancer, and are looking forward to some exciting results in the years to come.
Read more about our cutting edge research at /research