Birmingham collaboration awarded international MRC Newton Fund prostrate cancer grant

Dr Padma Sheela Jayaraman

An international team from the University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham in the UK and the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, has been awarded £660,000 to study prostate cancer.

An international MRC Newton Fund Prostate cancer grant has been awarded to Professor Kevin Gaston (University of Nottingham), Dr Vera Manduku  (Kenyan Medical Research Institute) and will be led by Dr Sheela Jayaraman (University of Birmingham).

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and this disease has a particularly high incidence in men of African origin.  Around 47,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the UK and this is increasing as men live longer. The incidence of prostate cancer in Kenya and other low- and middle-income countries is also rising and in these countries the cost of treatment and the cost of lives lost to this disease are major barriers to economic development.

Inflammation in the prostate is common and this is an important factor in prostate cancer. Inflammation in the prostate can have many causes including bacterial and viral infections and autoimmune responses. Cells from the immune system are found in the prostate and in prostate cancers they release signals that increase the replication of cancer cells and increase their ability to spread. In this project the team will investigate the importance of immune cells and immune signals in prostate cancer in Kenya and in the UK.

In their previous work the team discovered that a protein called PRH stops prostate cells from replicating and stops them from invading other tissues. They found that as prostate cancer becomes more advanced the activity of PRH is decreased. This showed that the PRH protein works by controlling the activity of many genes important in allowing prostate cells to respond to signals from immune cells.

In this new project the team  will  find out how changes in the levels and activity of PRH alter the response of prostate cells to  immune signals. To achieve this they will collect blood, urine, and cancer samples and determine the levels of the PRH protein in Kenya and in the UK. They will also measure the levels of inflammatory signals and immune cells in the blood samples.

For patients with moderately advanced disease radiotherapy and drug treatments are effective. However, these treatments can have serious side effects including osteoporosis and bone fracture. In many less advanced cases treatment is probably unnecessary as the cancer is very unlikely to progress and spread. Better ways of identifying patients who need treatment and better treatments would be of immense value to patients and result in major cost savings.  This work will tell us whether measuring the levels of immune signals in blood and PRH in prostate cancer might be a good ways to predict which patients require treatment.

Dr Sheela Jayaraman (University of Birmingham) said “This project is the result of many years of work in this area and I am excited that we are joining forces to investigate this disease”.

Professor Kevin Gaston (University of Nottingham) said “Prostate cancer is a global problem and we are proud to be part of this new international project”. 

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