The Duchess of Gloucester met with researchers and clinical triallists on a royal visit to our Belfast-Manchester Movember Centre of Excellence, where attempts to find new ways to tackle advanced prostate cancer are already showing exciting early results.
Our Belfast-Manchester Movember Centre of Excellence received a figurative royal thumbs-up this morning, as our patron, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester, saw for herself some of the exciting work going on in the labs at Queen’s University Belfast.
Shown around by the Centre's scientific co-director, Professor David Waugh, the royal visitor was told of the "great progress" being made "with some really exciting research" as she met men already benefiting from clinical trials there.
"Our focus is on understanding what makes aggressive cancers, and cancers that relapse after radiation, behave the way they do so that we can tailor treatments to stop them," said Professor Waugh. "We’re really close to translating these research ambitions into clinical benefit for men, and this visit from Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester feels like a real tribute to that."
One man currently enrolled on a clinical trial called ADRRAD at the Centre is David Livingstone, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in May 2016.
The trial aims to test whether treating men newly diagnosed with advanced disease with radiotherapy to the prostate and radium 223 to cancer hotspots outside the prostate, at the same time as hormone therapy, is safe and can extend life.
"If it wasn’t for this research, I simply would not be here," says David. "Last May, I received my diagnosis that I had very aggressive prostate cancer that had spread to the bones. The prognosis was bleak." But following treatment, David has now been told his tumour is 'under control' and says he "enjoys a good quality of life".
Since the Belfast-Manchester Centre of Excellence opened its doors in July 2014, it’s made remarkable progress understanding aggressive prostate cancer cells and how to stop them spreading. This means understanding how different cancers behave in different men, so that they can be matched to the best possible treatment.
Some of the highlights so far include developing a test to identify men whose localized prostate cancer is at risk of spreading beyond the prostate, and another test to predict which men are at high risk of their cancer coming back after radiotherapy. Both of these projects are ready to be independently validated by other research groups in clinical studies.
Alongside their work to understand the biology of aggressive prostate cancer, researchers and clinicians have also started a number of clinical trials to help improve the use of radiation treatment for men with high-risk or advanced prostate cancer.
When we, in partnership with The Movember Foundation, awarded grants to both the Belfast-Manchester and London Movember Centres of Excellence three years ago, the release of the final tranche of funding was conditional upon a successful three-year review.
Earlier this year, a panel of international experts visited both Centres and – following a rigorous review – unanimously recommended that the final funding of almost £4m between the two of them be released. This funding will not only ensure that the Centres can bring the successful projects they’ve started so far to a close, but also help set up a legacy of excellence in prostate cancer research that will continue far beyond the lifetime of this grant.