Hunting for infections that trigger aggressive prostate cancer

What you need to know

  • In previous work that we funded, Prof Daniel Brewer and his team found a link between bacteria in the urine and aggressive prostate cancer
  • Now, he will be analysing the data collected on over 2000 prostate cancer samples to identify bacteria and viruses present and if they are linked with changes in the cancer
  • If he and his team find a link, then this discovery could lead to new treatments, such as antibiotics, being used to prevent or halt prostate cancer
This research has the potential to reveal new treatment possibilities to prevent or halt aggressive cancer development through the use of antibiotics.
Prof Daniel Brewer

There is still a lot that we do not understand about how aggressive prostate cancer develops. Prof Daniel Brewer and his team have found early evidence of a link with bacteria in urine and is now exploring this further using existing data from a large study.

Infections can lead to cancer

Infectious diseases can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as cervical, liver, stomach and bladder cancer. One way this occurs is through infections causing long-lasting inflammation, which can lead to cells becoming cancerous. Prof Brewer and his colleagues wanted to see if this could be a factor in the development of aggressive prostate cancer.

Bacterial infections are seen in aggressive prostate cancer

In a previous study of 300 men, the team found that men with high risk or advanced prostate cancer were much more likely to have bacteria in their urine. In particular, there were many bacteria that grow well in places without oxygen, such as the prostate.

Prof Brewer is now planning to confirm and expand on this discovery using data from over 2000 men. He will identify any bacteria or viruses in the prostate cancer samples using existing genetic sequencing data. Thanks to the data collected from the cancer samples, the team will be able to see if there is a link between the different infections and the clinical and molecular behaviour of the prostate cancer.

Hopes for a treatment

If this study confirms a link, the next steps will be to understand if and how the infections cause aggressive prostate cancer. If treating the infections can prevent or halt the development of cancer, then this could be tested in men through clinical trials, using existing medicines such as antibiotics.

Grant information

Reference - MA-ETNA19-003

Researcher - Prof Daniel Brewer

Institution - University of East Anglia

Award - £77,925.00