Early detection of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and the disease kills one man every 45 minutes in the UK, amounting to more than 11,500 men every year.

Paula Mendes - Professor of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Prostate Cancer UK

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have received a grant worth over £275,000 from leading men’s health charity, Prostate Cancer UK. Their aim is to help develop a new test to accurately show how aggressive someone’s prostate cancer is, in order to help doctors identify the best treatment for each individual man.

The grants have been awarded as part of the charity’s £3 million Research Innovation Awards scheme following a competitive process and detailed assessment from international experts. The scheme encourages researchers across the UK to develop forward thinking, ambitious research proposals which challenge the status quo to help fight prostate cancer.

Current tests

Current tests for prostate cancer cannot tell the difference between an aggressive prostate cancer, which will spread quickly and need immediate treatment, and one which may never grow enough to cause any harm. The study, led by Professor Paula Mendes, will use nanoparticles to test for specific proteins which indicate that the cancer is aggressive.

Professor Mendes, Professor of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at the Healthcare Technologies Institute, said:

“Prostate specific antigen, or PSA, is produced naturally by the prostate. A raised level in the blood can indicate a problem, but this doesn’t always mean cancer. This research uses coloured nanoparticles which bind to sugars attached to PSA proteins to see if they can help us tell whether there is actually cancer, and if so, how aggressive it’s likely to be.

“We’re so grateful to Prostate Cancer UK for funding this research to help us show how this would work in practice. If we’re successful, we could start clinical trials in the near future, and hope to eventually see this test rolled out for men across the country.

"Without a more accurate test to show how aggressive the cancer will be, it can be hard for doctors to know what will be the best treatment for a particular man. If successful, our long-term aim is for this technology to replace the PSA test, giving doctors more information to help them decide the best treatments to offer. This is an incredibly exciting time for prostate cancer research and we’re proud to be part of a movement which could bring about real change for men within our lifetimes.”

For more information, please contact:
Professor Paula Mendes, Professor of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology: P.M.Mendes@bham.ac.uk.