Background to project
Many of the current prostate cancer therapies come along with a series of potentially severe side effects. Part of the reason for this is that many therapies aim to stop the prostate responding to androgens, which are male sex hormones. Androgens are needed for prostate cancer growth, but also play many other roles in the body that are also affected when the drugs are used, which is why there are side effects.

What they set out to do
This project set out to develop a model in which active androgen signals will “light up” and can be observed by the scientists. This will let them study what happens when prostate cancer progresses and stops responding to androgens. It will also let them watch what happens when various drugs are used and help them to predict the side effects that a drug might have. The team used male mice which were treated with different Androgen Deprivation therapies to reduce the amount of androgen in their cells. Through MRI and luminescence imaging the team monitored the androgen activity of the mice, as well as prostate size, to see the effects of the therapies.

What they found out
The imaging techniques used could detect which areas in the mice had reduced androgen activity as these areas would not ‘light up’ as much as other areas. When the team compared the images for the different treatments, they could also see which treatments were the best in reducing androgen activity and where each treatment reduced androgen activity. Therefore, the imaging could show which treatment worked best and was most targeted to the cancerous area.

How will this benefit men?
Currently, many prostate cancer patients suffer debilitating side-effects of the available treatments. The new imaging model could be used to assess the side effects of different treatments and give researchers a good idea of how effective the treatments are at reducing androgen activity. The team have already tested several drugs and at least 2 of these have shown enormous potential as new prostate cancer treatments. One is already in clinical trials and the other is undergoing further development.

Institution - Imperial College London
Researcher - Professor Charlotte Bevan
Grant award - £211,800
Duration - 2014-2017
Reference - PG13-033 Bevan

Research we fund