Using a new drug to improve response to radiotherapy and hormone therapy

2019 John Paynter Research Innovation Award

What you need to know

  • Radiotherapy combined with hormonal therapy is commonly used to treat men with early stage prostate cancer. Most men respond well to this treatment but for some, the cancer can re-appear.
  • We’re funding Dr Simon McDade and Dr Melissa LaBonte-Wilson to investigate a new drug to see if it can improve the response to treatment with radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
  • If successful , this research could identify new treatment options for patients with early-stage prostate cancer.
We hope that this research will not only lead to improved treatment options for men with prostate cancer, but also enhance our understanding of how prostate cancer and the immune system responds to hormone therapy and radiotherapy.
Dr Simon McDade

Understanding how resistance develops

Many men with prostate cancer are treated with radiotherapy combined with hormonal therapy. While this can be very effective for some, the cancer may return for others.

Dr McDade and Dr LaBonte-Wilson are investigating the use of a drug which blocks the activity of a family of proteins called HDACs. This drug could improve the effectiveness of existing treatments, as well as helping make the patient’s own immune system better at finding and attacking the cancer cells.

Adding a new drug to improve standard treatment

Dr McDade and Dr LaBonte-Wilson want to test this new drug to see if it is effective at increasing the sensitivity of the cancer cells to radiation and hormone therapy, creating a longer lasting effect and preventing the cancer from returning.

They also want to understand what it is about an individual’s prostate cancer that makes it difficult to treat with radiation and hormone therapy. This information could help identify the men who might benefit from additional treatment.

Previous work by this team in colorectal cancer showed that blocking the activity of particular HDAC proteins has potential to enhance how a patient’s own immune cells recognise and eliminate the cancer cells. In this project, they’ll see whether this treatment combination can also trigger an immune response against prostate cancer. If so, this could provide avenues for future studies looking at combining this drug with existing treatments which also boost the immune system.

Potential to develop even more treatment options in the future

Dr McDade and Dr LaBonte-Wilson will use the evidence from this study to propose a clinical trial where they would test this new treatment combination in men with prostate cancer. If successful, this new combined therapy could lead to better treatment options and improved quality of life for men with early-stage disease.

Grant information

Reference – RIA19-ST2-020

Researcher – Dr Simon McDade and Dr Melissa LaBonte-Wilson

Institution – Queen’s University Belfast

Award - £374,306

This grant is supported in the memory of John Paynter