Developing a genetic test for aggressive prostate cancer

A recent clinical trial showed that nearly 30 per cent of men with advanced prostate cancer responded to an anti-cancer treatment called olaparib. This type of drug only works for men who have a mutation in one of the genes that controls how cells repair broken DNA.

We are funding Professor de Bono and his team to develop a simple genetic test to work out which men have this mutation. This will help them to give a more accurate prognosis to men with this mutation and to recruit them for a bigger clinical trial of olaparib.

The researchers will examine biopsy samples collected from previous patients to see how accurate their blood test is at identifying the mutation. Once they better understand the accuracy they can better judge how common this mutation is and use medical records to understand what effect it has on the progression of the disease.

The team will use the genetic test in blood samples of men they want to recruit to a clinical trial of olaparib. This means that only those men most likely to benefit from the treatment will take part and will show how useful the test is for predicting a response to the drug.

Overall, this project will make significant steps towards precision medicine – tailoring prostate cancer treatments towards the individual man and his cancer. It will help work out the best treatment for each man to have and the right time to have it.

Progress (Year 1 of 3)

So far in this project, the team have tested almost 200 men with advanced prostate cancer, identifying around 50 who would be eligible for the olaparib trial. They have also identified that around 1 in 8 men with advanced prostate cancer were born with an increased inherited risk that could have contributed to the development of the disease.

Grant information

Researcher – Prof Johann de Bono
Institution – Institute of Cancer Research
Grant award - £315,895
Reference – PG14-010-TR2