25 September 2019

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia has announced more than $1 million in new funding for three Australian research projects to better detect prostate cancer's progression and advance knowledge of how the deadly disease impacts men's lives.

The funding has been announced for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and was made possible by the support of signature PCFA events Biggest Ever Blokes Lunch Melbourne, It's a Bloke Thing Toowoomba, and other generous community members and corporate partners.

PCFA's CEO, Professor Jeff Dunn AO, said the three successful projects were selected from 18 high-calibre applications.

"These are world-leading projects that could help us find better ways of detecting and treating deadly forms of prostate cancer," he said.

"The successful projects were selected by an independent expert committee, based on their potential to provide the best possible benefits for Australian men affected by the disease.

"The first project will help us improve predictions about prostate cancer risks and progression, the second will help to build our knowledge of the role DNA mutations play in prostate cancer, and the third will compare the effectiveness of different styles of interventions in enhancing quality of life outcomes for men who have undergone a radical prostatectomy."

"Our ultimate goal is to find answers to some of the most urgent challenges faced by Australian men with prostate cancer – to deliver real breakthroughs for rapid translation into practice."

Each of the three research projects adopts a focus on men at higher risks of mortality and/or significantly reduced quality of life resulting from treatment:

Using new epigenetic information to better predict which men are most likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer
Prof Melissa Southey, Monash University, Victoria
Some families are more susceptible to prostate cancer than others, possibly due to inherited DNA sequence variation (genetics) or DNA modification (epigenetics). We have recently identified several inherited DNA modifications that occur in families with higher rates of prostate cancer. We will now combine this information with existing risk prediction models and molecular testing strategies for prostate cancer to improve prostate cancer risk prediction for all men. Knowing a man’s prostate cancer risk will assist clinicians to determine how best to test for the disease and how aggressively to treat the prostate cancer should it occur.

Finding new genetic risk factors for prostate cancer
A/Prof Renea Taylor, Monash University, Victoria
When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is difficult to determine if his disease will progress rapidly or slowly. This project aims to identify men likely to have aggressive prostate cancer based on changes in their DNA (their gene profile). To do this, we will study new inherited cancer-causing genes in men with prostate cancer to better predict prostate cancer severity. This research will also improve our ability to apply genetic screening to aid early detection and identify the appropriate treatment(s) should prostate cancer occur

Multimodal prehabilitation in couples affected by prostate cancer
A/Prof Catherine Paterson, University of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
New evidence suggests that improving the physical and psychological health of people diagnosed with cancer, before they begin treatment, has beneficial effects on their recovery and quality-of-life once treatment begins. This is called pre-habilitation. This study will examine the effects of pre-habilitation on men choosing surgery for localised prostate cancer. It will also determine the benefits of pre-habilitation on a man’s partner/spouse. The project findings will provide immediate benefit to men and their partner/spouse being treated through the Canberra Health Services as well as providing important information necessary for a definitive large-scale clinical trial.

Professor Dunn commended the researchers on the high quality of their applications.

"These three projects have great potential to change the lives of Australian men with prostate cancer and their families,' he said.

"Recent advancements in our understandings of things like epigenetics and DNA mutations mean that we can now investigate new pathways for treating prostate cancer tumours and modelling what they might do – with Prof Southey and A/Prof Taylor demonstrating research leadership in these fields.

"Their discoveries will help us to customise treatment and care, building on decades of clinical and lab work to improve survival rates and stop the spread of cancer before it starts.

"Equally, experts like A/Prof Paterson are leading the way in proving the value of interventions that enhance the patient's overall physical and mental health before, during, and after treatment – increasing survival prospects and quality of life outcomes and supporting compliance with recommended treatment protocols.

"One thing is clear – the most exciting prospects for prostate cancer survivorship are being discovered by researchers like these who have recognised the fact that no two patients are the same, and our chances of beating the disease are much better when we know what the disease is likely to do, and why.

"PCFA is one of few research funding bodies in Australia that has prioritised investigations into the relationship between psychosocial care, survivorship, and quality of life – responding to the evidence that the side-effects and symptoms of treatment can have devastating impacts.

"Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of prostate cancer internationally, with one in every seven Australian men likely to be diagnosed during their lifetime.

"While survival rates for prostate cancer are high, with over 95% of men likely to survive at least five years, we must keep up the pace of work to find curative treatments and ensure that the 200,000 Australian men who have survived the disease are now living well.

"Research is key to prostate cancer survival and we are proud to support these projects. This is Australian research excellence at its finest," Prof Dunn said.

For more information about the projects, click here.