Research reveals why some prostate cancers are more aggressive

Published by  News Archive

On 20th Mar 2020

prostate cancer cells under a microscope

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have discovered why some prostate cancers are more aggressive, spread to different parts of the body, and ultimately cause death.

It is hoped that the discovery, published today, could transform patient treatment.

The findings come after the same team developed a test that distinguishes between aggressive and less harmful forms of prostate cancer, helping to avoid sometimes-damaging unnecessary treatment.

The new study shows how the number of ‘aggressive’ cells in a tumour sample defines how quickly the disease will progress and spread.

The findings also reveal three new subtypes of prostate cancer that could be used to stratify patients for different treatments.

Lead researcher Prof Colin Cooper, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It usually develops slowly and the majority of cancers will not require treatment in a man’s lifetime. However, doctors struggle to predict which tumours will become aggressive, making it hard to decide on treatment for many men.

“This means that many thousands of men are treated unnecessarily, increasing the risk of damaging side effects, including impotence from surgery.”

The team developed a test to distinguish aggressive prostate cancers from less threatening forms of the disease, by applying some complex maths known as Latent Process Decomposition.

Collaborator Prof Vincent Moulton, from UEA’s School of Computing Sciences, said: “By applying the Latent Process Decomposition process and analysing global prostate cancer datasets, we discovered an aggressive form of prostate cancer known as DESNT - which has the worst clinical outcomes for patients.”

In the latest study, published today, the team studied gene expression levels in 1,785 tumour samples. They found that the amount of DESNT subtype cells in a sample is linked with the likelihood of disease progression – the more DESNT cells, the quicker the patient is likely to progress.

Co-lead researcher Dr Daniel Brewer said: “If you have a tumour that is majority DESNT you are more likely to get metastatic disease, in other words it is more likely to spread to other parts of your body. This is a much better indication of aggressive disease.

“We also identified three more molecular subtypes of prostate cancer that could help doctors decide on different treatment options for patients.

“This research highlights the importance of using more complex approaches for the analysis of genomic data,” he added.

The research was led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with the University of Bristol, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, and the Earlham Institute.

The research was funded by the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the King Family, the Hargrave Foundation, and UEA, with support from Movember, Prostate Cancer UK, Callum Barton and from the Andy Ripley Memorial Fund.

This research forms part of a wider project at UEA to revolutionise the way aggressive prostate cancer is diagnosed. Prof Cooper and his team need £3 million to transform their research into two clinical tests. To make a donation, visit Prostate Cancer Research on our website or to discuss a larger donation contact the Development Office at giving@uea.ac.uk.

A Novel Stratification Framework for Predicting Outcome in Patients with Prostate Cancer’ is published in the British Journal of Cancer on March 20, 2020.

Study medicine at UEA

Study computing sciences at UEA

More world-leading research

Latest News

  News
26 Nov 2020

Half hour of exercise offsets risks caused by sitting

Half an hour to 40 minutes of daily exercise could offset the dangers of increasingly sedentary lifestyles – according to new World Health Organization...

Read more >
  News
Shop closed due to lockdown
25 Nov 2020

Tier 1 didn’t work and tier reallocation “too slow”, research shows

Tier 1 restrictions in England have had “little impact” on Covid-19 transmission according to new research from the University of East Anglia. Researchers...

Read more >
  News
25 Nov 2020

Domestic abuse frontline staff reveal strain of work in lockdown

In the upheaval of Britain’s first national lockdown, one crucial sector of social care workers were largely overlooked – but new research from the University of...

Read more >
Are you searching for something?
  News
Female footballer heading football
25 Nov 2020

Could female footballers face greater dementia risk?

Female footballers heading the ball could be putting themselves at even greater risk of dementia than male players according to experts at the University of East...

Read more >
  News
Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson
24 Nov 2020

UEA leads change in tackling racial harassment in higher education

A UUK advisory group, led by Vice-Chancellor Prof David Richardson, has published a set of recommendations to tackle racial harassment, with MED cited nationally...

Read more >
  News
24 Nov 2020

The danger of Z-drugs for dementia patients

Strong sleeping pills known as ‘Z-drugs’ are linked with an increased risk of falls, fractures and stroke among people with dementia – according to research from...

Read more >
  News
19 Nov 2020

The lightbulb moment helping to save our environment

UEA’s Estates team has made CO2 savings equivalent to providing 60 homes with electricity for a year, all through the installation of energy-efficient bulbs in...

Read more >
  News
Globe with ClimateOfChange and ClimateUEA logos
18 Nov 2020

UEA among top universities urging G20 leaders to prioritise net zero emissions

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is part of an international coalition of leading climate research universities urging world leaders to prioritise net zero...

Read more >
  News
Norwich Research Park
18 Nov 2020

UEA researchers named in world’s 2020 most highly cited list

Ten Norwich Research Park scientists have been named in the annual Highly Cited Researchers list for 2020, including five from the University of East Anglia.

Read more >
  News
Women working on the land
13 Nov 2020

UEA Researchers win prestigious Celebrating Impact Prize

Researchers from the University of East Anglia are among the winners of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) annual Celebrating Impact Prize awards,...

Read more >