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 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.
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: