The start of the new academic year brings seven new prostate
cancer researchers into laboratories around the UK, as they start
their three-year, Movember-funded PhD Studentships.
Grace Cole, Mario de Piano, Flavia Fioretti, Maria Sadiq,
Katrina Reilly, James Grey and Carmen Aguirre Hernandez will all be
working in labs across the UK; taking very different approaches to
help advance our understanding of prostate cancer and work towards
discovering new treatments and diagnostic tools.
We’re really looking forward to hearing how these students get
on over the next few years, and learning of their results and
successes. Every experiment we do, and every result we get is
another brick in the road towards better prostate cancer diagnosis
and therapy. So the more trained scientists we have working to fill
in the blanks, the quicker we’ll get there.
So what will these PhD students do for the next three
Grace Cole – delivering DNA where it counts
Grace will be working with Dr Helen McCarthy at Queens
University, Belfast. She’s trying to develop a
new system to deliver a DNA vaccine that works by ‘tricking’
the body’s immune system into attacking the cancer cells. Grace
will experiment with wrapping the DNA in a coat made of short bits
of protein called peptides to protect it on its way into the cell,
to then deliver it through the skin via a patch.
Mario de Piano - understanding the link between prostate cancer
Mario will be building on the
lab’s research into a link between how and why prostate cancer
spreads and the way that fat is absorbed and broken down
(metabolised) in the body. Hewill try to use this knowledge
to find a way to identify which tumours will be non-aggressive and
not need treatment, and which tumours will become aggressive and
will spread to other parts of the body if they’re not treated
quickly. Mario will be supervised by Dr Claire Wells and Dr Meike
Van Hemelrijck at King’s College, London.
James Grey – investigating androgen receptors
James will be working with prostate cancer expert, and Prostate
Cancer UK grant holder Professor Craig
Robson at the Northern Institute of Cancer Research in
Newcastle. Professor Robson is interested in the molecular biology
of prostate cancer (the nuts and bolts of what happens inside the
cell); particularly the androgen receptor, and how it works.
Androgens are hormones, like testosterone, that bind to the
androgen receptor within the cancer cell, helping the cancer to
grow.Professor Robson’s new student, James, will investigate how a group of proteins
called phosphatases influence this receptor, and whether
developing drugs that change how the phosphatases work might also
change how the androgen receptor acts and influences the cancer to
grow and spread..
Flavia Fioretti – testing a new drug for advanced
Flavia will be joining Dr Charlotte
Bevan, who also holds a Prostate Cancer UK project grant.
Flavia will test
a new type of drug which could be used to stop the androgen
receptor working after the tumour cells have become resistant to
traditional hormone therapy. If successful, this new type of drug
could go on to be tested in clinical trials to offer further
treatment options for men who have reached the advanced stages of
Maria Sadiq – Understanding cancer spread
In Bradford, Maria Sadiq will be working with Dr Klaus Pors to
study a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases. Enzymes
are proteins that can drive activity in the cell. There is thought
to be a link between aldehyde
dehydrogenases and cancer spread, but we don’t know a lot about
the biology behind this yet. Maria will investigate whether these
enzymes can be used as a tool to help diagnose aggressive prostate
Katrina Reilly – Helping cancer ‘stick’ in the same spot
Many scientists try to think outside the box, but Dr Mark Coles
and his new student, Katrina, are thinking outside the
tumour to try to understand how and why cancer spreads. There
are molecules on the cell surface, called adhesion molecules that
affect how cells contact each other and ‘stick’ together.
Adhesion molecules on cells surrounding the tumour (stromal cells)
change when cancer cells spread from the primary tumour. Katrina
will investigate whether drugs that target these adhesion molecules
can prevent cancer spread.
Carmen Aguirre Hernandez – killing cancer cells with
In London, Carmen will be joining Dr Gunnel Hallden to work on a
new treatment for advanced prostate cancer. She will
to kill cancer cells with a virus that has been changed so that
it no longer causes disease, but instead enters cancer cells
and kills them. Since cancer cells multiply much faster than
normal cells, Dr Hallden and Carmen hope that using this together
with chemotherapy will provide an effective new treatment for
advanced prostate cancer.