Finding out why the new drug Abiraterone, developed to treat men with advanced prostate cancer, eventually stops working

Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden HospitalDr Johann de Bono£248,0282009 - 2012

Why we funded it

Dr de Bono hopes these studies will help develop new tests that can quickly identify which men with advanced prostate cancer will respond to treatments such as abiraterone. These studies may help scientists understand the different molecular types of prostate cancer, which is critical to continued successful drug development.

Scientific title

Identifying mechanisms of resistance to specific CYP17 inhibition with abiraterone acetate.

Research project summary

Dr de Bono and his team have developed a new type of hormone treatment, abiraterone; this is a pill with few side-effects that works in up to 60-70% of patients with advanced prostate cancer. This treatment allows survival for long periods with no return of the cancer; however, after many months or sometimes many years, abiraterone eventually stops working and the cancer returns. The team now propose to identify the patients in whom this drug works best and why it ultimately stops working.

The team will study the circulating cancer cells of patients treated on abiraterone acetate by evaluating changes in these cells acquired from blood samples ('a liquid biopsy'). The presence of key genetic changes in the cancer cells may predict the continued dependence of the cancer on hormones; this will be investigated and determined in this study.

These studies will help to develop new tests that can identify which patients with advanced prostate cancer will respond to treatments such as abiraterone. Hopefully, this will directly impact how men with advanced prostate cancer will be treated in the future by delivering personalised treatment based on our understanding of the individual's cancer. These studies will also help to more broadly understand the different molecular types of prostate cancer, which is critical to continued successful drug development. Ultimately, identifying what causes cancer to become resistant to abiraterone could lead to the development of new treatment strategies that would be of enormous benefit men with prostate cancer.