Stopping advanced prostate cancer in its tracks

Stopping advanced prostate cancer in its tracks

To find new ways to treat men with prostate cancer it’s vitally important we understand the biological processes that turn normal prostate cells into prostate cancer cells, and that allow those prostate cancer cells to grow and spread. Over the last 25 years we have funded many researchers to build up that detailed understanding.

In 2010 a team funded by us published a paper showing that a gene called PTEN played an important role. Men who have a mutation in their PTEN gene are more likely to have aggressive prostate cancer. They also showed that 40-60% of men with prostate cancer have one of these mutations.

PTEN acts like a handbrake. When it’s present, it controls when cells can grow, and when they can't. When PTEN is mutated and its function is lost the handbrake is released and can't be put back on - the result is that cells grow uncontrollably. 


Photo Johann Sebastian De Bono Standard
Professor Johann de Bono

Based on this knowledge, drugs have been developed to try to put that handbrake on even if PTEN isn't working. One such drug is called ipatasertib and, thanks to the evidence generated by Prostate Cancer UK funded research it is now being tested in a large clinical trial.

Prostate Cancer UK’s support has been tremendously important in uncovering the complex role of PTEN and the impact it could have on treating men with the most aggressive prostate cancers
Professor Johann de Bono
Stopping advanced prostate cancer in its tracks

From research idea to access for all


Impact Idea


We funded a team to identify markers that could predict how aggressive a mans prostate cancer is. The team developed a new test to see where genes are in cells. The team found that around 40-60% of men with prostate cancer have a gene missing, this gene is called PTEN.

Impact Research

Lab research

PTEN acts as a cell growth handbrake. When the handbrake is missing prostate cancer cells grow uncontrollably. The team also found that the men who had missing PTEN also had more aggressive prostate cancer.

Impact Trials

Clinical trials

Excitingly large pharmaceutical companies have used the evidence built by our funded researchers to develop new drugs for prostate cancer. One of these drugs, called ipatasertib, works by blocking the effect of missing PTEN.

Impact Approved

Approved for use

Early data from that large clinical trial is promising. It shows that ipatasertib can delay men’s prostate cancers spreading for an extra 2 months compared to current treatments. There is also a hint that if we can find more accurate ways to see if men have a mutation in PTEN then we should be able to get even better results from this drug.

Impact Access

Access for all

If the data from the trial shows the use of ipatasertib extends mens lives we will work with decision makers to ensure men can be tested for PTEN, so the right men will be given the right treatment. 

What's next?

We've continued to fund research into making sure the right men get the right treatment, the treatment that is most appropriate for their type of prostate cancer.

Photo Johann Sebastian De Bono Standard

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