SCOTTISH researchers have been given £250,000 to help develop a drug to extend the lives of men with prostate cancer.
The team at Strathclyde University hope the new treatment could increase life expectancy in men with advanced prostate cancer more effectively than the best drugs currently available.
Glasgow and Dundee universities have also been given six-figure sums to boost their own research into the disease, which campaigners say has suffered years of underfunding.
The three universities will together receive £691,000 from Prostate Cancer UK as part of its grants to boost research into the disease, which affects about 2,700 men in Scotland each year, with 850 deaths annually.
Professor Simon Mackay, from the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science, received £249,000 to develop the new drug to treat advanced prostate cancer.
The university has previously received funding from Cancer Research UK to develop molecules found in natural plant compounds into new types of drugs. The researchers now hope to be able to move on to trials in patients.
“We have developed a new drug-like compound which could help improve life expectancy for men with advanced prostate cancer over and above the six months associated with the present ‘gold standard’ –chemotherapy drug docetaxel,” Prof Mackay said.
“We are delighted that this new Prostate Cancer UK grant enables our researchers to continue to develop a new drug candidate ready for clinical trials.”
Prostate Cancer UK is injecting £11 million into research across the UK to try to increase understanding about the risks of developing the disease, improving diagnosis and developing new treatments.
Dr Iain Frame, director of research at the charity, said: “Due to a long legacy of underfunding and neglect, we still know shockingly little about why prostate cancer kills 10,000 men every year. By funding ground-breaking projects such as these with the UK’s top research scientists, we hope to be able to find the answers we so desperately need for the future.”
Glasgow University will use its £205,000 to improve radiation treatment by directly targeting prostate cancer cells.
Professor Rob Mairs, from its Institute of Cancer Sciences, said: “Although radiotherapy is widely used in the treatment of prostate cancer, damage to neighbouring tissues and organs limits the dose which patients can receive. With the support of key funding from Prostate Cancer UK, we will develop a more targeted approach to radiotherapy, which will offer a more effective treatment of prostate cancer which has spread to other areas of the body.”
The £237,000 given to Dundee will be used to investigate whether new ultrasound techniques could be used to diagnose prostate cancer and identify whether it is aggressive or not – some cancers may never develop in a way that is harmful to patients, meaning invasive treatments are not necessary.
Ghulam Nabi, senior lecturer in surgical uro-oncology, said: “We hope we will be able to help more men to be diagnosed faster and more accurately.”