Scientists believe that a phenomenon called the prostate cancer field effect might hold the key to understanding how it is that many different cancers can form apparently independently in the same prostate. However, very little is known about exactly what the field effect is, and how it might work. This funding will allow a PhD student in Dr Daniel Brewer’s lab to develop and apply their expertise in data analysis to develop mathematical and computer models to understand this process.
Recent work in this lab has found that in some cases cells contain subtle cancer-like changes even when prostate tissue appears normal. The PhD student will investigate whether these cancer-like changes could explain the mysterious field effect. They want to test the idea that these changes predispose the entire prostate to become cancerous, which could explain how different cancers can develop in the same prostate.
Since over 80 per cent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer have more than one cancerous area in their prostate, understanding whether this field effect can predispose the prostate to develop cancer spots might be an important step towards understanding how to prevent the disease. It may also help to establish if a man is suitable for emerging therapies that target individual spots, known as focal therapies.
Reference - TLD-S15-003
Lead Researcher - Dr Daniel Brewer
Institution - University of East Anglia
Award - £83,979
PhD student - Claudia Buhigas