Prestigious NIHR grant could help identify those with prostate cancer risk through gene testing

Date:
08 May 2021

Researchers at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, have been awarded a prestigious, National Institute for Health Research Programme (NIHR) grant that could revolutionise prostate cancer care.=

Image
Professor Ros Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at the ICR and consultant in Clinical Oncology and Oncogenetics at The Royal Marsden
Pictured: Professor Ros Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at the ICR and consultant in Clinical Oncology and Oncogenetics at The Royal Marsden

The grant will be used to investigate whether gene testing could improve the chances of identifying people who may develop prostate cancer, and those likely to develop more aggressive forms of the disease.

Prostate cancer affects 1-in-8 men in the UK and kills almost 12,000 annually. Half of cases occur due to genetic factors and patients are often concerned that it may develop in their family members, particularly patients who decline fast due to aggressive forms.

In the last two decades there has been huge progress in our knowledge of human genes. Gene testing now helps guide treatment for other cancers, such as breast and colon. Discoveries by researchers at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, now provide similar opportunities for those at risk of prostate cancer.

A team led by Professor Ros Eeles, have found gene changes that can lead to prostate cancer. They believe these could be used to improve the chances of identifying people who may develop prostate cancer and those likely to develop more aggressive forms of the disease.

The programme aims to generate the evidence and resources needed to roll-out the gene testing into everyday NHS practice and will draw on collaborations with University of Cambridge, St George's, University of London and City, University of London.

The team will offer gene testing to 1,000 men at risk of prostate cancer and 1,000 men known to have prostate cancer. They will also use gene testing data already collected from a group of 1,160 men without prostate cancer and no family history to compare the three groups and check the gene test accurately identifies men’s risk status.

Men identified to be at risk of aggressive prostate cancer types will be offered routine screening if they do not already have cancer, whilst those with a diagnosis of prostate cancer will be offered opportunities to join clinical trials of promising treatments funded by the European Research Council. The team will track all men at risk of the most aggressive types for up to five years to assess the impact of testing.

The programme will build on pilot work funded through the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at The Royal Marsden and the ICR. This is the first NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research to be awarded to The Royal Marsden, and will enable the team to bring innovative scientific discoveries made at the ICR through to NHS clinical practice.

Patient and public involvement is pivotal to this programme. Three patient representatives helped shape the design of the research as grant co-applicants. They will continue to be involved throughout the programme, alongside at least seven other public representatives, to ensure that the views and priorities of patients are  enhance the research. 

Professor Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at the ICR, Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Oncogenetics at The Royal Marsden, and Prostate Cancer research theme lead at the BRC said: “The programme could make a big difference to the future of prostate cancer treatment. If successful, it will lead to earlier diagnosis and more personalised treatment, with the potential to save many lives.”

Our Research: Prostate Cancer

We support and fund prostate cancer research at The Royal Marsden and ICR to help improve treatment selection for patients and improve outcomes using advances in molecular diagnostics and treatment options for localised and metastatic disease. 

Find out more