Testing precision medicine in mini prostate cancer tumours

What you need to know

  • Precision medicine is a new way to treat cancer, where each man is given the treatment that is best for him, based on his genes.  
  • We’re funding Dr Swain to create ‘mini-tumours’ in the lab to test new precision medicine treatments. 
  • Her work will help inform future precision medicine clinical trials for men with advanced prostate cancer, bringing important treatments to them faster.
Using defined genetic models we will be able to determine which mutations make tumours sensitive to [which] therapies. Our goal is to help the development of more effective therapies for this hard to treat disease.
Dr Amanda Swain

Precision medicine is a form of medicine that uses information about a person’s cancer, like the specific genes involved, to identify the best treatment plan for them. It has the potential to be particularly useful for advanced prostate cancer, which is often difficult to treat. However, not many simple systems, or models, exist to test new precision medicine treatments before they can be trialled in patients.  

Using mini tumours to have big impact for men

Dr Swain wants to create ‘mini tumour’ models, grown in the lab from mouse prostate cells, but which have some of the mutated genes found in human prostate cancers. Using these simplified tumour models, the team will be able to understand which genes allow tumours to grow, respond to treatments, and become resistant to treatments. Knowing which genes are involved in these processes will help doctors select patients, based on the genes found in their cancer, that would benefit most from precision medicine clinical trials.  

Uncovering genetic links to cancer progression  

The team will create multiple mini tumours, each with a different mutated gene, and will monitor which tumours develop into advanced prostate cancer. This will tell the researchers which genes are involved in prostate cancer progression, and could be used by doctors to predict the prognosis of men with prostate cancer.  

Matching genes to precise treatments

Dr Swain will also test which mini tumours respond best to different drugs, and which drug combinations can prevent the tumours from becoming resistant, a common problem for men with advanced prostate cancer. Finally, the researchers will implant some of the mini tumours into mice, to further test the effects of different treatments on different genes. 

Informing clinical trials of the future

The team hope that this project will provide information that can be used to develop precision medicine clinical trials for men with advanced prostate cancer, as well as uncover combinations of drugs that will prevent prostate cancers becoming resistant to treatment. They will also make their mini tumours available for use by other researchers aiming to find treatments for advanced prostate cancer.   

Grant information

Reference -  RIA17-ST2-019
Researcher -  Dr Amanda Swain  
Institution -  Institute of Cancer Research  
Award- £474,465.00