New advance in prostate cancer management

August 09, 2005

Scientists from The Institute of Cancer Research have developed a technique which will markedly help in predicting the behaviour of prostate cancer.

At present, prostate cancer tests - needle biopsies, blood and urine samples - are unable to accurately predict how aggressive the cancer is and whether it is likely to progress, resulting in thousands of men undergoing radical preventative surgery which may be unnecessary.

A study - published online today in the British Journal of Cancer* - describes a simple and highly reliable technique, known as the 'Checkerboard Tissue Microarray (TMA) Method' which can be carried out on prostate cancer needle biopsies. The Checkerboard TMA Method looks for multiple markers of various genes associated with prostate cancer, including the E2F3 gene. Overexpression of the E2F3 gene, first identified at The Institute of Cancer Research, is a marker of how aggressive the prostate cancer will be.

The new technique will allow the investigation of an enormous untapped resource of clinical specimens obtained at the time of diagnosis of cancer, in order to identify markers of the cancer's aggressiveness. The technique will be pivotal in developing a test for prostate cancer aggressiveness which may ultimately prevent thousands of men undergoing unnecessary surgery, with its often associated severe side effects including incontinence and impotence.

"This represents a real advance for the future management of prostate cancer," said Professor Colin Cooper, The Grand Charity of Freemasons' Chair of Molecular Biology at The Institute of Cancer Research. "Eventually we hope to be able to distinguish the tigers - aggressive tumours requiring treatment - from the pussycats - non aggressive tumours which can be monitored for many years without treatment. Ultimately this could prevent thousands of men from having to undergo radical surgery, which can have devastating effects on their day to day lives."

Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer to affect men in the UK. More than 30,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with the disease and almost 10,000 men die from the disease each year.

Professor Peter Rigby, Chief Executive at The Institute of Cancer Research comments:

"This demonstrates the real progress we are making in the field of prostate cancer research. Since discovering the E2F3 gene as a marker of prostate cancer aggressiveness our research team has been committed to developing a test for the gene. The development of this technique is a significant step forward in prostate cancer management and should ultimately improve thousands of men's lives."
*Volume 93, issue 4

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:
Nadia Ramsey
Science Press Officer
The Institute of Cancer Research
Tel: 44-207-153-5359 / 0778-842-7856

Notes to editors

  • The article, by Dr Jhavar and colleagues entitled 'Construction of Tissue Mircoarrays from Prostate Needle Biopsy Specimens' will be published in the British Journal of Cancer on 9th August 2005, volume 93, issue 4
  • The study describes the Checkerboard method for constructing Tissue Mircoarrays (TMA) from prostate needle biopsies. Needle biopsy samples are embedded in paraffin blocks. In this method the biopsies are cut into cubes and re-orientated to expose a cross-section of the sample and then re-embedded in hot paraffin wax. The blocks are then sliced to allow staining. The biopsy tissue maintains its antigenicity and can therefore be tested for tumour progression. This technique results in a 9% loss of tissue. Conventional TMA often result in a 10 - 30% loss of tissue when constructed
  • The Institute of Cancer Research has a history of firsts in prostate cancer research having discovered the E2F3 gene as a marker of prostate cancer aggressiveness, isolated the BRCA2 gene which can determine predisposition to prostate cancer as well as breast cancer, developed 'conformal radiotherapy' allowing higher doses of radiation to be targeted directly at tumours and trialled the method of active surveillance
  • The study was undertaken in the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. The Institute works in a unique partnership with the Royal Marsden, forming the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe. This relationship enables close daily contact with those on the frontline in the fight against cancer - the clinicians, the carers and most importantly, the patients.
  • The Institute of Cancer Research is a centre of excellence with world leading scientists working on cutting edge projects. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Website at:
  • The Male Urological Cancer Research Centre, at The Institute of Cancer Research, is Europe's first and only dedicated male cancer research centre. The centre must raise £1.5 million each year to support the vital research into male cancer conducted at the centre.
  • Professor Cooper's position is funded by a £1 million donation over ten years to The Institute from The Freemasons Grand Charity to support vital research into prostate and testicular cancers. The position, known as The Grand Charity of Freemasons' Chair of Molecular Biology, heads the male cancer research centre at The Institute.
  • Professor Colin Cooper of The Institute co-ordinates the South of England NCRI Prostate Cancer Collaborative.
  • The work of Toby Roe at the Male Urological Cancer Research Centre is supported by The Rosetrees Trust
  • The work of David Hudson and his team at the Male Urological Cancer Research Centre is supported by The Bob Champion Cancer Trust
  • The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) was established in April 2001. It is a partnership between government, the voluntary sector and the private sector, with the primary mission of maximising patient benefit that accrues from cancer research in the UK through coordination of effort and joint planning towards an integrated national strategy for cancer research.
  • The NCRI consists of: The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI); The Association for International Cancer Research; The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Breast Cancer Campaign; Cancer Research UK; Department of Health; Economic and Social Research Council; Leukaemia Research Fund; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research; Macmillan Cancer Relief; Marie Curie Cancer Care; The Medical Research Council; The National Assembly for Wales; Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services Research & Development Office; Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation; Scottish Executive Health Department; Tenovus; Wales Office of Research and Development for Health & Social Care; The Wellcome Trust and Yorkshire Cancer Research.

    The Institute of Cancer Research

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