Prostate cancer research underway in NI

Published Monday, 25 February 2013
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University of Ulster scientists are leading the way in helping reduce the rate of prostate cancer - a disease that only affects men.

Prostate cancer research underway in NI
Research into prostate cancer at a University of Ulster lab. (© UTV)

The Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, at the university's Coleraine campus, is developing drugs that target prostate tumours in a new way.

The research will focus on the key areas of understanding risk, improving diagnosis and treatment options for men living with the disease.

To fund their work, they have won a share of £11m from the charity Prostate Cancer UK.

As part of its MANifesto, the charity has pledged to find answers, through research, into what they have described as a "neglected disease." Currently very few treatments are available.

Across the UK, prostate cancer kills around 10,000 men every year. Despite this, scientists know relatively little about the disease partly because, historically, research into prostate cancer has been underfunded.

Dr Tom Black, a family GP, said the disease is becoming more common because people are living longer.

"So if you live longer then you get diseases that are more common in old age. Prostate cancer is a disease that would mostly occur in men over 65 - in fact, 85% would be in men aged over 65."

Dr Jenny Worthington is leading the team making exciting progress developing a new type of treatment.

"We have done some preliminary studies so we know that our treatment works," she explained.

"We've done those experiments, what we need to do is take that next step to do a clinically relevant treatment schedule that can be used to inform clinical trials say within the next five years."

She continued: "The area that we are interested in is hypoxia because there are areas in tumours that are very low in oxygen concentrations and these are really important in terms of treatment because these areas are resistant to chemotherapy and resistant to radiation.

"What we have is a drug that specifically kills these cells, so by combining it with normal treatments we hope to be able to control the disease for much longer."

Dr Worthington said that if the disease is detected early enough, as with all cancers, prostate cancer can be treated.

© UTV News
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