05 April 2024

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia is warning that more lives will be needlessly lost to prostate cancer if research funding isn’t significantly increased, with more than 86,000 deaths from the disease since 1996.

The call comes as the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia awards $1.2 million to researchers working to beat Australia’s most common form of cancer.

“More than 86,000 Australian men have lost their lives to prostate cancer since 1996, when PCFA was formed. The impact of the disease on Australian families and the community is profound,” says PCFA’s CEO, Anne Savage.

“This year Australia will set a record for the highest number of prostate cancer cases diagnosed in the nation’s history, with more than 25,000 men likely to hear the news they have prostate cancer.”

In response, PCFA has awarded five new research grants worth a combined value of $1.2 million:

Developing targeted theranostics for personalised prostate cancer treatment
Dr Eric Kusnadi, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, University of Melbourne

Theranostic (“therapy” and “diagnostic”) involves using a ligand, such as a peptide or small molecule, bound to a radionuclide to reveal cancer’s spread through a PET/CT scan. The same ligand is then combined with a “therapeutic” radioisotope to specifically target and kill cancer cells. This project aims to develop a novel theranostic ligand against STEAP1, a molecule that is abundantly present on the surface of prostate cancer cells (including PSMA-negative cancers). Successful outcomes of this work will expand the role of theranostics in personalised cancer management, particularly for PSMA-negative prostate cancer patients, aligning with PCFA’s priority to apply “precision approaches to therapies across the prostate cancer continuum”.

Identifying new treatments with testosterone for prostate cancer
Dr Nicholas Choo, Monash University
Prostate cancer is usually treated by reducing testosterone levels in the body, but some tumours can adapt and grow in a low-testosterone environment. Bipolar androgen therapy (BAT) is an emerging treatment where men on standard hormone therapy receive high doses of testosterone, cycling between very high and low levels of male hormones. As some tumours are more responsive to BAT alone than others, this project will investigate combinations of BAT with different compounds to improve the effectiveness of BAT. This research will identify useful BAT combinations that will advance more effective treatments for prostate cancer patients.

Interrogating the Prostate Tumor Microenvironment for Circulating Radiotherapy Biomarkers to Personalize Targeted Alpha-Therapy
Dr Kevin Koo, The University of Queensland
Despite the overall survival benefit of modern molecular-targeted radiotherapy for advanced prostate cancer, treatment resistance is inevitable with all patients eventually succumbing to their disease. To improve molecular understanding of such resistance mechanisms, Dr Koo will work with Australian industry partner – AdvanCell, who is conducting the first-ever TheraPb clinical study of 212Pb-based targeted radiotherapy in late-stage prostate cancer patients. By performing cutting-edge molecular analysis of patient blood samples from the study, the overall project aim is the world-first development of predictive molecular targets for 212Pb-based targeted radiotherapy. This project is expected to deliver direct clinical benefit by facilitating radiotherapy resistance prediction and immune response monitoring for prostate cancer targeted radiotherapy.

Addressing financial challenges in prostate cancer
Dr Jessica Roydhouse, Menzies Institute for Medical Research - University of Tasmania
This project will investigate the needs and experience of men with prostate cancer who live in a regional area, focusing on the financial impact of prostate cancer and the role of employment. Next, it will examine what regional employers need to support men with prostate cancer. The research aims to inform future interventions that can help address these needs.

EV-PRECiSE: A Multi-Centre Cohort Study to Optimise Prostate Cancer Treatment Selection
Dr Jessica Logan, University of South Australia
Dr Logan’s project focuses on men who are currently identified as low-risk prostate cancer patients. Regrettably, 35% will require treatment in the first two years, and 59% will require intervention within five years. Improved methods are needed to maximise early intervention and therapy selection while managing co-morbidity to reduce the socioeconomic burden of prostate cancer in Australia. The current standard in clinical assessment of prostate cancer is subjective Gleason grading of tissue sections, leading to sub-optimal treatment choices and disease progression in low-risk patients. Our discovery of an altered cellular pathway in prostate cancer enabled the identification of precise biomarkers (Appl1, Sortilin, Syndecan-1) for primary disease progression. This innovative technology has been fully validated and implemented into clinical practice in the US and the aim is to further develop the technology and establish this service provision for Australian men.

Prostate cancer currently receives around half the funding that goes to other major cancers.

“We are continually looking for new ways to effectively prevent, detect, treat, and eliminate prostate cancer through research,” said PCFA’s Chief of Mission, Professor Jeff Dunn AO.

“Our hope is that these grants will accelerate new discoveries to support the Australian men who will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and over the next several years.

“But this is only possible by increasing our investments into research, so that we can deliver the breakthroughs that are so desperately needed to move us closer towards a cure.”

PCFA’s Research Advisory Committee Chair, Professor Lisa Butler, said research to deliver near-term benefits for Australian men was a priority.

“There is an identified need for investment into research projects that explore theranostics and next generation radiotherapy, socio-economic barriers for survivors and better ways to support the emerging pipeline of nuclear medicines that are setting the bar for new standards of care.

“Clinical trials also remain a top priority – to accelerate the research required to save men’s lives today.”

PCFA CEO, Anne Savage, said the five projects would run over two years.

“Each of these researchers are making a vital contribution to the growing body of worldwide knowledge into the disease, placing Australia at the forefront of global research.”

“We’re tremendously proud of the role we have played in lifting survival rates from 82 per cent to nearly 96 per cent over the past three decades, but in the same period the number of deaths per day has increased from seven to 10, due to Australia’s ageing and increasing population.

“We simply must accelerate our efforts to defeat this disease and that can only happen through research,” Ms Savage said.

These grants are awarded under PCFA’s new Research Strategy 2023-2027 which aims to promote and fund world leading, innovative research to support men and their families affected by prostate cancer.

To find out more about PCFA’s grant recipients and the latest in research news, visit www.pcfa.org.au/research/funded-research/pira-research-grant-recipients/

For information and support, go to www.prostate.org.au


Media contact:

Laura Gillett | 0468 788 609


Key figures: 

  • Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.
  • 25,487 Australian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2023.
  • 3,743 Australian men will die from prostate cancer in 2023.
  • 70 Australian men are diagnosed each day with prostate cancer.
  • 10 Australian men will die each day from the disease.
  • 250,000 Australian men are alive today after a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
  • Men diagnosed with prostate cancer have a 95% chance of surviving for five years compared to their counterparts in the general Australian population.
  • Between 1982–1987 and 2012–2016, five-year relative survival for prostate cancer improved from 58% to 95%.

Detailed data:

  • Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cause of cancer-related death among men.
  • Prostate cancer will cause an estimated 12% of all male deaths from cancer in 2020.
  • The estimated risk of a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer by age 85 is 1 in 5. The estimated risk of a man dying from prostate cancer by his 85th birthday is 1 in
  • The rate of men dying from prostate cancer has been gradually falling over the past 20 years.
  • Men living in regional or rural areas have a 24% higher rate of dying than those in cities.
  • Indigenous men with prostate cancer have a 50% higher risk of death from the disease.
  • By 2040 it is estimated that 372,000 Australian men – or 2.4% of the projected male population – will be living with prostate cancer.

Mental health impacts of disease:

  • 1 in 5 men with prostate cancer will develop anxiety and depression.
  • 72% of men with prostate cancer will not seek help for distress.
  • 67% of men with prostate cancer have unmet information needs.
  • Men with prostate cancer face a 70% increased risk of suicide.

A 10-year study of Australian men affected by prostate cancer has found significant numbers of men have lower life satisfaction and experience long-term impairments to quality of life, whereby 35 to 40% of men experience poorer physical and mental quality of life outcomes and life satisfaction 10 years after the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.