Why we funded it
Recent studies have shown that P. acnes is the most common
bacterium found in prostate cancer tissue, and that it is
significantly associated with prostate inflammation. This is an
important observation because current research suggests chronic
inflammation may be important in the development of prostate
tumours. Determining whether this bacterium is a cause of prostate
cancer will have important implications for the development of
future treatments and disease prevention strategies.
Understanding the role of Propionibacterium acnes in
the aetiology of prostate cancer
Research project summary
In this study, Dr McDowell and his team propose to confirm that
a common skin bacterium associated with acne, called
Propionibacterium acnes, is present in the prostate gland
of patients with prostate cancer where it could establish a
long-standing infection that may lead to cancer. They also propose
to demonstrate how the microbe could stimulate cancerous changes to
develop in prostate cells.
The team will use novel antibodies to visualise P.
acnes in prostate tissue removed from patients with prostate
cancer, and also grow the bacteria and use DNA-based methods for
detection to identify it. These studies are the first in the United
Kingdom to investigate prostate cancer tissue for the presence of
the infecting microbe. The team will investigate how the bacterium
could cause cancerous changes by conducting experiments with immune
cells, as well as normal and cancerous prostate cells, grown in the
laboratory. The cells will be stimulated with different types of
P. acnes bacteria to study any effects which may be
important in cancer development.
The discovery that P. acnes is a common cause of many
prostate cancers would be a very exciting and major breakthrough.
It could lead to the early screening of men for this new
risk-factor and the use of treatments, such as antibiotic therapy,
to eradicate the organism before cancerous changes develop. This
would make a significant difference to the lives of men by helping
to reduce the incidence of this disease. Research programmes on
other conditions have focused on development of P. acnes
vaccines, and their progress could become relevant for prostate
cancer if P. acnes is proven to be an important