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Help us make more discoveries to defeat prostate cancer

Advances in our research are helping men live longer and with a better quality of life. With your support, we will continue to find new ways to defeat prostate cancer – so more men will survive this disease.

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“The ICR’s research has proved miraculous for me. My treatment has given me a new lease of life.” Rob Lester, from Fife in Scotland, is living well with cancer thanks to the targeted drug abiraterone, which we discovered. Hear his story.

Our progress against prostate cancer

Our wide-ranging programme of prostate cancer research has delivered new targeted cancer drugs and genetic discoveries, and made radiotherapy more precise. Together these have had huge benefits. More men than ever before are surviving their cancer, and having a better quality of life.

But, while 32 men die every day in the UK from prostate cancer, there is more that needs to be done.

Survival rates when the disease is diagnosed at a later stage remain low. So as well as discovering new therapies, we are also pioneering brand new genetic approaches with the aim of developing a test to pick out men at high risk of prostate cancer.

Understanding predisposition to prostate cancer

Professor Rosalind Eeles looking at the camera smilingProfessor Ros Eeles is Professor of Oncogenetics. Her team analyses DNA from hundreds of thousands of men with and without prostate cancer, to try to find genetic clues about the disease.

They have discovered over 150 genetic factors that influence a man’s chance of developing prostate cancer – a major step forward for a disease that can progress rapidly in some patients but remain harmless in others.

Thanks to our research, we now know that someone in the top one per cent of risk is almost six times more likely to develop prostate cancer than the average person. That’s a one-in-two chance compared with the average of about one in 11.

Catching prostate cancer early saves lives

If prostate cancer is caught early, the chance of being alive five years after diagnosis is more than 90 per cent. However there is currently no effective screening test for prostate cancer – and almost half of men are diagnosed at a late stage when survival rates are significantly lower.

By identifying the genetic variants that increase the likelihood of prostate cancer in the population, Professor Eeles is improving our understanding of why prostate cancer develops – so we can design targeted treatments and prevention programmes.

Specifically she aims to develop tests for prostate cancer risk which could be used in patient screening. She led a small study in GP practices, which showed that genetic testing can safely and effectively identify those with the highest chance of developing prostate cancer.

If we can tell from DNA testing how likely it is that a man will develop prostate cancer, we could use that information to develop a monitoring programme to catch the disease early – or even prevent it altogether.

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Read about some of our most exciting research advances in prostate cancer – improving treatment for men today, and heralding a brighter future for tomorrow’s patients:

At the forefront of precision medicine

We’ve long been at the forefront of precision cancer medicine, which gives individual patients the best treatments according to the biological make-up of their cancer. In the past two decades targeted drugs have extended cancer patients’ lives by blocking vulnerabilities in specific types of cancer.

This includes abiraterone, which we discovered and is now a routine treatment for advanced prostate cancer, giving hundreds of thousands of men worldwide more time with their loved ones.

More recently, olaparib – an innovative precision medicine already licensed for breast and ovarian cancer – became the first gene-targeted medicine to show benefits in prostate cancer. It has now been approved for some men with advanced prostate cancer in the US and EU.

Changing clinical practice using radiotherapy

Cancer treatment can be very tough on patients. Countless hospital visits and side-effects from some therapies can add to the distress already caused by a cancer diagnosis.

We have led the way in developing new, more targeted forms of radiotherapy for prostate cancer treatment which leave patients with fewer side-effects and deliver more cancer killing radiation to the tumour itself.

The major CHHiP trial, which was led by the ICR and The Royal Marsden, showed that fewer, larger doses of radiotherapy for prostate cancer were just as effective as the standard regime. This led to changes in clinical guidance, which are now sparing patients the inconvenience of unnecessary hospital appointments.

Modelling prostate cancer evolution, from patient to patient

Dr Marco Bezzi recently joined our impressive cohort of prostate cancer research leaders. He is researching how the complex cell ecosystems within prostate tumours evolve to help the cancer become resistant to drugs, and he is looking to find new ways to overcome this.

Diseases like prostate cancer are caused by mutations that build up in cancer cells. Traditional prostate cancer models grown in the lab do not adequately reflect the diversity of genetics and microenvironment seen in the patient.

Dr Bezzi is using lab-grown mini-tumours called organoids that more closely resemble cancer, to better understand how prostate cancer evolves. He will use these to study how tumours are able to deceive the immune system and resist treatment, to help identify new ways to treat them.

“My treatment has given me a new lease of life.”

Rob Lester is standing on the beach, wearing a blue raincoat and smiling to the camera 

Rob Lester, from Fife in Scotland, was working as a GP when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 at the age of 55. The cancer was advanced and had spread to his bones. He’s now been on the targeted drug abiraterone for around nine years.

Rob says: “Abiraterone has given me hope – not only have I survived, but I’ve been able to enjoy my life and have a great quality of life. I often don’t think about the cancer now. I’ve been able to take up things that I didn’t do before – I’ve joined a walking group and now we do walking holidays. We’re looking at the map and thinking of places that we’d like to go. I live what I would call a ‘normal’ life.”

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