Taking out prostate cancer’s sidekick to keep treatments working for longer

What you need to know

  • Advanced prostate cancer is treated with hormone therapies, which work by targeting an important driver of cancer growth called the androgen receptor. But over time, the cancer can become resistant to these treatments.
  • Scientists think this is because other proteins, called ‘co-factors’, work alongside the androgen receptor to help cancer grow and spread. In this project, Professor Bevan wants to identify the main co-factors that drive treatment resistance in prostate cancer, and test whether they make effective targets for new drugs.  
  • This research could help find a way to keep hormone therapies working for longer in men with advanced prostate cancer, improving their quality of life and helping them live longer.
We hope that this funding will allow us to identify proteins that work alongside the androgen receptor, and test new chemicals to target them. These could then be used to develop drugs that target prostate cancer in a completely new way, helping men with advanced disease live longer.
Professor Bevan

Looking beyond the androgen receptor

Prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is treated with hormone therapies. They work by blocking the androgen receptor, the main driver of prostate cancer growth and spread. They are initially very effective but, over time, the cancer changes and can become resistant to their effect.

Recent research suggests hormone therapies stop working because the androgen receptor doesn’t act alone. Scientists think other proteins, called ‘co-factors’, work alongside the androgen receptor to help cancer grow, spread and become resistant to treatment.

In this project, Professor Charlotte Bevan wants to identify these co-factors and test the effects of chemicals that target them. This could ultimately result in new treatments that stop resistance from developing and keep existing hormone therapies working for longer.  

Hitting the target

Professor Bevan and her transatlantic team will analyse data from previous studies and examine newly collected cancer samples from men at different stages of the disease. The combination of techniques will help them spot the most important co-factors and understand how they change as the disease progresses.

They will then test chemicals that target each co-factor to see if this affects the growth of cancer cells and their ability to respond to hormone therapies. This will tell them which ones could be the focus of future drug development.

Longer-lasting treatments

By the end of the project, Professor Bevan hopes to have identified several co-factors with the potential to become drug targets. Following further research and development, drugs targeting co-factors could be tested in clinical trials in men with advanced disease. These could eventually be used alone or in combination with hormone therapies to prevent resistance developing and keep cancer controlled for longer, improving men’s quality of life and life expectancy.

Grant information

Reference - RIA18-ST2-022 
Researcher - 
 Professor Charlotte Bevan
Institution - Imperial College London