Researcher - Dr Jason Webber
Institution - Cardiff University
Award - £679,601.00
Duration - 2014 - 2019
Every cell releases vesicles called exosomes that contain a mixture of fat, sugar and protein molecules, which are used to communicate to the surrounding cells. Cancer cells produce different exosomes to normal cells, and these molecules may trigger changes to the surrounding cells in order to promote disease progression. This project aims to identify novel exosomal molecules released by prostate cancer cells, in particular sugar-coated proteins called heparin sulphate proteoglycans found on the surface of these exosomes. They will then determine whether the amount of these proteins correlate with the stage of the disease, and if they may therefore be used as an indicator of the aggressiveness of the cancer.
It is currently unclear why some men have slow growing, non-aggressive tumours whilst others have a more aggressive form of prostate cancer which requires treatment. This study aims to identify new markers, present in the exosomes in patient blood, which could be used to distinguish indolent from aggressive disease. If successful, this would allow treatments to be targeted to patients with aggressive disease whilst avoiding unnecessary over treatment of men with slow growing, indolent tumours, thereby transforming clinical management of prostate cancer.
The ability of exosomes to drive disease-related changes is linked to some markers (sugar-protein structures) present on the exosome surface. Dr Webber and colleagues have identified the markers that are common to prostate cancer exosomes. Some of these appear to correlate directly with other exosome associated molecules that have also been associated with aggressive disease. They shall continue to work on developing a test to detect these markers present on prostate cancer exosomes from blood samples and validate these findings over the next year.