How do you prioritise research?

How do "research boffins" prioritise research into prostate cancer? Is it to find what causes it? To prevent it happening? To find a cure? To find what causes aggressive or indolent disease? Or to develop new drugs?

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research, Prostate Cancer UK:

I think it's two things. Scientists themselves have great ideas about what needs to be done, based on results of previous research. And there are also funders, like Prostate Cancer UK, who say: ‘We think this needs to be done, can someone go and do it?’.

Overall, the direction of research comes from men with prostate cancer who tell us what the important questions are, researchers who can answer those questions, and funders who can provide the funding in order that research takes place.

At Prostate Cancer UK, we’re in the process of trying to link these groups together to form a research strategy group made up of men with prostate cancer, clinicians, and basic scientists. And together they will prioritise areas of research for us to fund in the coming years.

In terms of looking for a cure… well, there are still some questions that even with the best will in the world, we just don't have the tools available through research to answer yet. I think we have to look at many other areas first, because there are still so many unknowns about prostate cancer.

Find out more about our research strategy.

Do you fund survivorship research?

Can we fund qualitative research on survivorship issues within a current or future research strategy? How would we implement or assess that?

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research, Prostate Cancer UK:

Survivorship research is about how to improve the lives of people living with or after prostate cancer. So whether it's dealing with the side effects of treatment, or the psychological and emotional issues involved, we do have a duty to fund research to improve lives in that area.

It's just very difficult to do in the current climate because there aren’t many people out there doing that type of research. We also need to be careful not to fund a number of surveys that don't lead to further research.

We’ve teamed up with the Movember Foundation to fund two major survivorship initiatives; True NTH and Life after prostate cancer diagnosis, both funded by the Movember Foundation as part of global programmes.

Do drugs companies want a cure?

What is the incentive for large pharmaceutical companies to find a cure, instead of researching treatments that will continue to provide a revenue stream? Is it down to charities to look for a cure?

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research, Prostate Cancer UK:

It's a great provocative question and one that I think we have to be honest about addressing. We shouldn’t assume that drug companies are only interested in pure profit. There are lots of hard working people in pharmaceutical companies, who do want to find cures and find treatments. And with a disease as common as prostate cancer, there should be a level of profit in finding a cure for it. So I don't think it would be fair to say that drug companies won't be looking for significant developments in finding a cure.

Another part of the question that we get asked a lot is what is the role of charities in doing this? I think we do have a key job to do. Charities and foundations tend to fund more of the formative work at the early stages of drug development, and then pharmaceutical companies pick it up later on based on the earlier fundamental research. I think that works, because as charities we do need to think very hard about where we invest our money, and we can see across all of the areas that actually need some investment. But I do think there's an opportunity for us to work more closely with pharmaceutical companies so that we can actually find ways to get investment happening earlier; share some of the risk and make charitable money go a bit further.