Approximately 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetimes in the UK. Prostate cancer presents in men with a family history and has an increased risk after the age of 55. At the early stages, the main treatment is hormone therapy to deprive the tumor of testosterone. After treatment, there is a remarkable 85% survival rate after 5 years. There is however, a lack of effective treatments for late stage and metastatic cancer, and the prognosis for these patients is incredibly low.
Mike Kenny is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology who kindly agreed to chat to us about the compound he has been working on. He completed his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of Leicester. He then undertook a summer placement at the University of Liverpool where he participated in drug design for tuberculosis. Upon his return to Leicester for his final year, he then went on to focus on breast cancer drugs. These experiences led to his decision to join Prof. Michael Threadgill and his team in Bath to design a novel pro-drug to be used for advanced prostate cancer therapy. According to Mike, this program was an opportunity to use his knowledge of synthetic chemistry to give the compound he designed a purpose.
Mike’s research is fully funded by Prostate Cancer UK. He has synthesized an analogous compound to Duocarmycin SA which was initially isolated from the bacterium Streptomyces. The compound or ‘Pro-drug’ is made up of several components. One component directs the compound to the prostate, where another then releases the active drug which then enters the cancer cells and binds onto DNA to effectively kill the cells. Mike highlighted the need for new drugs in the market, as the main treatments for late stages are largely ineffective and have highly toxic effects. He further emphasized the trickiness of designing such a compound and touched upon the limitations of getting any drug into the clinic, as appropriate toxicology tests must first be done before further steps are taken.
Chatting to a young scientist about exciting new treatments for advanced prostate cancer put into perspective both the demand of new potent drugs as well as the complexity of getting them from the lab to the clinic. Mike’s work is certainly something to follow in the near future!
Left to Right: Ophélie Martinot, Eleni Costa, Luke Pattison and Megan Cassidy
I’m Megan, a final year Biology student with an interest in cancer research, specifically the molecular aspects of disease development. My recent placement year in Cambridge focused on gene mutations that result in targeted therapy resistance. This affirmed to me that this research is just as exciting and challenging as I expected. I now hope to continue my cancer studies with a PhD but in the meantime, I look forward to sharing exciting research updates with you all!
I’m Ophélie, a final year Biochemistry student. I have been interested in cancer research since my first year at university which led me to undertake a placement in St Jude Children’s Research Hospital last year. There, I studied the role of a transcription factor in the metastasis of a mouse model of breast cancer. My interest is focused on current advances in treatment strategies specifically in immune-oncology where our immune system is manipulated to kill cancer cells. After I graduate I plan on studying medicine.
I’m Eleni and as a final year Biochemistry student, my interest in cancer came about during my placement at the Peninsula School of Medicine, where I became involved in the investigation of novel genes implicated in brain tumor initiation. There, I became intrigued by the molecular aspects of developing new and targeted cancer therapies. Next year, I will be attending the MSc Drug Discovery and Development course at UCL which will allow me to further pursue a career in cancer research and therapeutics.
I’m Luke, a final year Molecular and Cellular Biology student. Having spent my placement year in Melbourne, where I was investigating novel methods of targeting G protein-coupled receptors, I’ve become very interested in cell signalling and drug development. I’m looking forward to learning about the work being done at our university to tackle cancer and sharing this with you!
Today CR@B is welcoming our colleagues from across the South West (GW4 universities) for the first GW4CANCER workshop.
The two-day meeting will enable experts in a range of disciplines to examine the global challenges in cancer research and to combine our efforts in cancer research to find cures that can be implemented in a future of personalised medicine in cancer treatment.
Cancer is a large group of diseases with different causes and outcomes and the future for treatment seems to heading in a direction of personalised medicine because, even with the same type of cancer, the genetic make-up of each patient may have a different influence on their response to treatment. Personalised medicine takes into account the patient’s unique genetic background as well as the genetic profiles of the tumour in order to predict the response to cancer treatments.
Since it is becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) for one research group to address the complexity of cancer a concerted collaboration of expertise and pooling of resources will enhance our efforts and allow us to address the challenging cancer questions.
Within the GW4 universities there is already substantial research effort into the environmental and lifestyles causes of cancer, the contribution of genetics, biochemistry and cell biological processes to the causes of a wide range of cancers, as well as research into the prevention and pharmaceutical intervention in cancer.
GW4CANCER also aims to establish a cross-centre non-clinical doctoral training programme in cancer research to train the next generation of cancer scientists.
At CR@B we’re looking forward to hosting our GW4 Cancer Research and what should be a stimulating and inspiring couple of days.