UEA scientists to uncover infections that could cause aggressive prostate cancer

Published by  Communications

On 28th Jul 2021

Researchers from the University of East Anglia are investigating whether certain infections could trigger the development of aggressive prostate cancer – thanks to funding from leading men’s health charity Prostate Cancer UK.

The study, led by Dr Daniel Brewer, builds on previous research funded by the charity that found a link between bacteria in urine and aggressive prostate cancer.

Dr Brewer and his team will analyse samples collected from more than 2,000 prostate cancer patients to identify the bacteria and viruses present and determine if certain infections are linked to the way prostate cancer grows and spreads.

The £75,000 grant is part of £1.6 million the charity has awarded to four exceptional research projects across the UK. Each project will capitalise on data and samples amassed through existing clinical trials to investigate unanswered questions that will improve the way prostate cancer is diagnosed or treated.

Dr Brewer, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “There’s still a lot we don’t know about how aggressive prostate cancer develops. Our early research suggests there could be a link with bacteria, but we now need to confirm and expand our understanding by studying samples from a much larger group of men.

“This research could lead to new treatment options, such as antibiotics, that could prevent aggressive prostate cancer from developing. It could also lay the foundations for new tests that use bacteria to predict the most effective treatment for each man’s cancer.”

Post-doctoral researcher Abraham Gihawi, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We’re very interested in the possibility of a link between bacteria and aggressive prostate cancer. The Pan Prostate Cancer Group is a large collaborative community which will bring together a wealth of insights to begin investigating the nature of this complex relationship. I am really excited to be working on this project and I can't wait to see where it goes.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and kills one man every 45 minutes in the UK.

Simon Grieveson, Head of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Funding innovative research that tackles prostate cancer from new angles is the only way we can stop so many men dying from the disease. That’s why we’re investing over £1.6 million towards four new studies that are using existing clinical data and samples in unique ways to answer the questions we desperately need to solve.

“The more we understand about how aggressive prostate cancer develops, the better chance we have of finding more effective tests and treatments for the disease. We look forward to seeing how Dr Brewer’s project progresses over the next few years and the difference it will make to men’s lives.”

For further information on research funded by Prostate Cancer UK visit: https://www.prostatecanceruk.org/research.

Researchers at UEA are also developing two revolutionary new tests to diagnose aggressive prostate cancer. The Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) test is a non-invasive test that uses urine samples to detect aggressive prostate cancer up to five years earlier than current methods and can reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies by up to 35 per cent.

Where biopsies are necessary, the Tiger Test determines if a tissue sample has a poor prognosis category of prostate cancers. This test could help men avoid unnecessary treatments which have life-altering side-effects.

The team at UEA are looking to raise £1.5 million to complete the development and clinical trials of these life-saving tests and get them into the hands of clinicians across the world.

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