Charities and Projects

Ovarian Cancer

Charity Number: 1125038

Lead researcher:
Dr Elizabeth Moore

University of Cambridge

Research strand:
Early diagnosis

Dr Moore is investigating novel methods for the earlier and more precise detection of ovarian cancer.

There is currently no proven screening test for ovarian cancer. The cervical smear test does not detect ovarian cancer and a complete diagnosis is only possible through investigative surgery. The aim of this study is to develop a new and more accurate way of diagnosing ovarian cancer by detecting alterations in DNA in routine blood and cervical smear samples.

Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is key to survival. Two-thirds of women are diagnosed too late, once the cancer has already spread, making treatment more difficult. If an accurate test can be developed to detect ovarian cancer early, it would have a significant impact on women receiving treatment as soon as possible, thereby increasing their likelihood of survival.

This work hopes to show that mutations in DNA can be detected at the time of diagnosis, particularly in early stage disease, meaning this method could be used as a potential non-invasive test for cancer diagnosis. This would lead to larger scale clinical studies that could potentially increase the early detection of ovarian cancer and thereby improve survival.

If successful, this project could dramatically improve survival outcomes for women with ovarian cancer, in the same way that screening programmes for other cancers have been shown to do.

Dr Moore is the first recipient of the highly prestigious joint Target Ovarian Cancer and Medical Research Council Joint Clinical Research Training Fellowship, a programme dedicated to training the ovarian cancer clinical researchers of the future.

Prostate Cancer

Charitable Status Reference: XN423

Lead researcher:
Professor Colin Cooper

Norwich Research Park

Prostate cancer is the commonest cancer in men in the UK with around 40,000 cases diagnosed annually and 11,000 deaths. That is around 1 man per hour dies from this disease. For many years prostate cancer was underfunded. Indeed, when Professor Cooper started working on this disease as little as 5p per man in the population was spent on basic research on prostate cancer. Thankfully the situation has now improved but in many ways prostate cancer is still playing catch-up; compared for example to breast cancer. The good news is that in recent years there have been considerable improvements in the treatment of this life threatening disease: we have abiraterone for advanced disease, new use of old drug such as decetaxol, and immunotherapy. However, there are still major problems. First, we still have no idea what causes prostate cancer. Eating processed tomatoes (Ketchup) is thought to protect again advances in disease and milk protein is thought to cause prostate cancer. The second problem relates to the fact that the prostate and prostate cancer is unlike any other cancer. Its very rare to get a single prostate cancer. Usually the prostate contains many separate cancers when the disease is diagnosed. Also, prostate cancer is very common in the prostates of older men; over half men over 50 would be diagnosed with prostate cancer if their prostate could be examined down a microscope. However only one in ten of these men would ever get clinically relevant disease: by that I mean prostate cancer that is likely to kill you. So this is the problem; most of the prostate cancers diagnosed in men are completely harmless; its is only the minority that are life threatening. We say you cannot tell the tigers (aggressive cancer) from the pussycats (indolent cancer). The temptation is when you are diagnosed with prostate cancer to get it treated by radiotherapy or surgery (have it removed). However, this is not a light undertaking. These radical treatments can cause impotence and potentially be life changing. So there is a lot of overtreatment; men who have pussycats cancers get treated unnecessarily. This is especially true when men are screened using the PSA blood test. The PSA test detects all cancers including many cancers that don't need treating.

So these are the two main themes of Professor Coopers work; first trying to find out what causes prostate cancer and secondly trying to distinguish the tigers from the pussycats, so that treatments can be targeted at the tigers only.
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