30 Sep 2022

Have we uncovered the possible origins of prostate cancer?

New research has moved us a step closer to understanding how prostate cancer begins - and how to prevent it.

Understanding the biology of cancer is crucial if we want to prevent and fight it. Thanks to you, we’re a step closer to understanding how prostate cancer begins, after researchers found that even ‘normal’ cells in the prostate can encourage the condition to develop. 

The new research, funded by supporters like you and in partnership with Cancer Research UK, the Dallaglio Foundation, and Movember, found that the whole prostate, including cells that appear otherwise normal, is different in men who eventually develop prostate cancer. In these men, cells throughout the whole prostate are primed and ready to develop prostate cancer. 

This finding could make it possible to find which men are at greatest risk of prostate cancer – and design new treatments to prevent these men from developing prostate cancer altogether. 

It also suggests that, in men who already have the disease, it may be better to treat the whole prostate rather than only the areas in the prostate that have cancer. 

Changes provide a ‘rich compost’ for prostate cancer

Your DNA is the instruction manual that tells your cells what to do and how to do it.  

However, if these instructions are corrupted – because the DNA in these cells is damaged or copied incorrectly – the cells can begin growing and multiplying excessively. If left unchecked, this is what leads to cancer. 

That’s why, when looking for clues to the origins of prostate cancer, the researchers compared the DNA of cancer cells and ‘normal’, non-cancerous cells, in samples from men with and without the disease. 

Lead researcher Prof Daniel Brewer, from the University of East Anglia, said: “We found that ‘normal’ prostate cells in men who had prostate cancer had more mutations (changes in the DNA) than ‘normal’ prostate cells from men without prostate cancer. 

“The ‘normal’ prostate cells in men who have prostate cancer appear to provide a beneficial environment for prostate cancer cells to develop and grow. In other words, the whole prostate is primed and ready to develop prostate cancer driven by an as-yet unknown biological process.” 

Dr Hayley Luxton, Senior Research Impact Manager at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This exciting new research shows for the first time how normal cells in the prostate can facilitate the growth and spread of prostate cancer.    

“The researchers found that normal prostate cells in men with prostate cancer have specific genetic changes that make them act like a rich compost, providing the perfect environment for prostate cancer cells to grow and develop.  

“These findings give us important new insights into the early development of prostate cancer, which might one day give us clues as to how to prevent it.” 

Help us fund research into a screening programme to catch prostate cancer early and save thousands of lives.


202010 George Seed Researcher

How our research is making a difference

Over the last 25 years, our research, funded by supporters like you, has changed the lives of men with prostate cancer. From transforming the way prostate cancer is diagnosed to developing the first precision medicine for advanced prostate cancer, we've made this happen together.
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