04 Feb 2024

World Cancer Day 2024: how research is revolutionising prostate cancer treatment

On World Cancer Day, we’re looking back on all the progress you made possible this past year, and the challenges that still lie ahead.

To ensure every man with prostate cancer has the best chance of a long, healthy life, we need precise and powerful treatments that can save and extend men’s lives. 

In the past year, this goal moved closer to reality thanks to the discovery of better, more effective treatments – made possible with your support. 

However, there's still more work to be done to ensure these treatments make it into the hands of everyone who needs them. 

Let’s look back at some of the biggest advances from the past year, and what we still need to do to ensure every man receives the personalised care he deserves.

Man And GP Talking

A life-extending drug for men with advanced prostate cancer

Last Spring, it was announced that olaparib, a drug that kills prostate cancer cells with a particular genetic weakness, can now be given to eligible men across the UK. 

Hundreds of men will now benefit from the drug, which has been shown to help men live several months longer on average.   

Originally developed and approved to treat women with breast or ovarian cancer, olaparib can kill cancer cells that have faulty DNA repair systems caused by a mutation in their BRCA genes. 

Thanks to your support, we were able to fund research that later found the treatment to be effective in prostate cancer, for men whose cancer also has these faulty repair mechanisms.  

And now, following this research, men across the UK can receive treatment based on the genetic make-up of their prostate cancer.

Discovering new treatments

Olaparib’s approval finally moves us away from a ‘one-size-fits-all' approach to prostate cancer and towards a future where every man gets a treatment tailored to him. 

But not every man can benefit from olaparib – only some men have the right genetics. 

So, to ensure that every man can benefit from this future, we need even more treatments that factor in each man’s unique biology. 

That’s why, in the coming year, we’ll be funding even more research into the next generation of tests and treatments. 

The projects will investigate all aspects of prostate cancer, from the underlying biology that drives it, to the weaknesses that could uncover new paths to treating it. 

Last year, for example, we began funding Dr Jennifer Munkley at Newcastle University and Dr Benjamin Schumann at Imperial College London to zero in on sugar molecules found on the surface of prostate cancer cells that cause tumours to grow and spread.

202302 GP And Consultant Shoot Rosie Lonsdale 82

Stopping treatment resistance

To give men the most benefit from these next-generation treatments, we’ll need to find ways to stop cancer becoming resistant to them. 

Fortunately, in 2023 our researchers discovered how prostate cancer cells can harness the immune system to resist treatments – and a way to stop them.  

Normally, the immune system is meant to defend the body against illnesses like cancer. However, in men with prostate cancer, the disease can send out ‘SOS signals’ to the immune system encouraging it to instead protect the cancer cells, making them resistant to treatments like chemotherapy. 

By blocking this signal, the researchers massively reduced the interaction between men’s cancer cells and their immune cells. 

This finding could lead to new, more effective ways to treat prostate cancer that the disease can’t easily become resistant to, and so save thousands of men’s lives. 

However, this was a small-scale study with just 21 participants, so more research is needed to make sure that these results translate to men more broadly.

Looking ahead

These advances were built on years of pioneering research and tireless campaigning, made possible by you. 

To ensure that our researchers can explore each promising discovery, giving men the best chance of getting access to new tests and treatments, it’s vital to keep up the momentum. 

Please, donate today to help revolutionise treatment for men with prostate cancer. 

Donate now

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.
The impact of research


With your help we can beat prostate cancer, together.
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