From food scientists to geneticists, molecular biologists to surgeons, the Prostate Cancer UK Research Forum brings together experts from every area of prostate cancer research across the globe. With all these amazing brains in one room, we had one thing in mind – to get them talking. Dr Sophie Lutter reports from this year’s conference in Baltimore.
The Prostate Cancer UK Research Forum happens every two years and is three days of intense discussion between prostate cancer experts – all with different ideas and approaches to research. The beauty of this meeting is that it gives these experts time to think up ways to weave their different approaches together and then make them happen.
This year we saw hours of really interesting discussion into new prostate cancer biomarkers. A biomarker is something – usually a gene or a protein – that can be measured to identify a particular medical condition.
There was discussion about the number of prostate cancer biomarkers that are being investigated at the moment – biomarkers that can be used when diagnosing prostate cancer, to distinguish between aggressive and non-aggressive disease, and biomarkers that can predict if cancer will come back after treatment or how well treatment will work.
And perhaps the most useful part of the discussion came from the scientists acknowledging that they’ll need to work together to get these new molecules to a point where they won’t be one-off discoveries in a lab, but can actually be used in the doctor’s surgery.
For Professor Christopher Woodhouse, who has organised the forum for the last 22 years, hammering out ideas in this way is exactly what the forum is designed for.
He told us, “The forum provides a platform for researchers to hear about challenges faced by clinicians (eg doctors), so they can target their work to maximise clinical benefit for men. Equally, clinicians learn about the latest research developments and can transfer that knowledge into their everyday clinical practice. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, especially men with prostate cancer.”
We also spoke to some of the researchers we already fund, to find out what they thought.
Caroline Moore, from University College London (UCL), told us how pleased she was to meet molecular biologists and food scientists, because they’re not people she would usually come across, and she was hoping that they could work together on a project she’s currently planning.
Dr Gerhardt Attard from the Institute of Cancer Research told us how useful it was to talk to other scientists who were working on similar questions, but tackling them from a completely different angle.
And finally, Professor Mark Emberton (pictured above), also from UCL, told us that within the three days of the conference he’d come up with ideas for five new research proposals that he’d never have thought up otherwise.
We hope that all of these conversations will lead to new research projects that we can fund to bring clear benefits to men with prostate cancer.
Read Sophie's daily blog posts from the Research Forum