Scientists bridge major gap in prostate cancer research

Everyman scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research have established an initiative to promote vital research for the development and clinical testing of new drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer. This announcement coincides with the launch of The Institute's Everyman Male Cancer Awareness Month which runs throughout June.

Advanced prostate cancer is currently treated with hormone therapy. However, this only works for a short time with eventual, invariable, failure of hormone-treatment, leading to death. When hormone therapy ceases to work there are few options for the patient other than palliative care and patients can expect, on average, to survive for approximately a further 18 months. New drug development and drug trials are therefore urgently needed to address this issue.

Scientists and doctors at The Institute of Cancer Research, in conjunction with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, are bridging this gap by investigating multiple ways to reverse hormone resistance by testing several new drugs in laboratory and clinical trials.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in UK men with around 30,000 cases diagnosed each year, yet patients have been missing out on drug developments. Currently drugs for other cancers are developed against specific targets, but as scientists do not fully understand how prostate cancer develops drugs are rarely developed specifically for the treatment of prostate cancer resulting in these patients missing out on new drug discoveries.

It has been difficult to determine the genetic causes of hormone resistant prostate cancer because it has been hard to acquire cancer cells from patients because of the nature of the spread of this cancer. In this programme patients in new drug trials at The Institute and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust are having cancer cells removed and grown in the laboratory to identify molecular pathways and new targets for drug treatment.

Dr Johann de Bono, from The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, is leading this initiative to promote new trials in prostate cancer patients of genetically targeted anticancer drugs. These trials are currently focussed on hormone-resistant patients, with end-stage advanced prostate cancer, where hormone therapy has ceased to be effective. There are currently approximately 25 new drugs being evaluated as part of this initiative, bringing drugs to trial for prostate cancer patients far quicker than ever before.

In parallel, The Institute is also researching how prostate cancer becomes hormone resistant to facilitate the development of drugs to target the known mechanisms of hormone resistance. Abiraterone acetate is one such drug developed by chemists and scientists at The Institute. This drug will be tested later this year in prostate cancer at The Institute and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with Cougar Biotechnology Inc.

Dr Johann de Bono, Team Leader and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘These initiatives will ensure that in the future drug targets can be discovered and new anticancer drugs developed specifically for prostate cancer and that current drug discoveries are translated into real benefits for prostate cancer patients as rapidly as possible.'

Professor Colin Cooper, who holds The Grand Charity of Freemasons Chair of Molecular Biology, Head of the Everyman Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research said: ‘The Institute has a history of firsts in prostate cancer. These initiatives will assist the world-class scientists at The Institute in tackling prostate cancer research and treatment today and in years to come.'

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