There is an urgent need to develop new effective treatments for men with prostate cancer, particularly advanced prostate cancer, and to carry out the underpinning research to achieve this.

Improvements in therapies have been developed in the past decade, but one man still dies of prostate cancer every 45 minutes in the UK, and 250,000 men die each year from prostate cancer world-wide. Innovative thinking and new approaches are required to solve this problem, and existing treatments need to be applied more effectively.

Our vision is to improve survival and quality of life for men who already have prostate cancer, and to find treatments for prostate cancer for the next generation of men.

Our Research Strategy describes how we aim to engage and empower scientists and clinicians to achieve this goal.  Prostate Cancer Research Centre recognises that many new treatment approaches, new targets and drugs need to be discovered and translated to patient benefit.

We understand that the probability of a scientific breakthrough and achievement of our stated goals will quicken if we broaden the base of the research we fund. Our focus is on finding therapies for advanced disease but we recognise that important research is needed to develop classification systems that can be applied when treating metastatic and non-metastatic disease. We acknowledge that clues relevant to men with advanced prostate cancer may be found in the early evolution of the disease.

We are committed to the goals of health resource equality and understand that the resources of the National Health Service are finite and would encourage research that aims to reduce the cost of prostate cancer treatment in the long term for the patients in the UK, primarily, but also around the world.

Targeting with a single drug or treatment currently does not cure the disease. Multiple treatments may need to be integrated for the treatment of a single prostate cancer patient. We are therefore committed to co-operating with other organisations to combine approaches, to support single outstanding projects, and to promote the careers of young scientists, who can carry the research forward with ever increasing improvements in advancement of knowledge and technologies. We are committed to continually researching and reviewing at which stage scientists find it hardest to get funding, and to considering how to adjust our strategy to improve impact across the sector.

Within the current Prostate Cancer Research Centre, scientists and clinicians from around the UK are working together and sharing ideas to solve critical problems relevant to men with advanced prostate cancer.

We are committed to ethically conducted research, a robust but rapid process of scientific peer review, allowing support to be quickly directed to innovative projects with fewer non-essential or administrative encumbrances.

Our Scientific Approach

‘We only fund research since it is only through research that we will find treatment.’

Prostate Cancer Research Centre (PCRC) is dedicated to funding research that will improve the lives of and/or cure men with prostate cancer, particularly advanced prostate cancer. By advanced prostate cancer we mean disease that has spread outside the prostate and that may become, or is already, life threatening. We will fund research that demonstrates a clear intellectual relevance to the betterment of advanced prostate cancer patients.

Funding by Prostate Cancer Research Centre

Our ambition is to become a world centre of excellence for prostate cancer research through funding excellent scientists and clinicians. Prostate Cancer Research Centre researchers will be expected to carry out world leading research recognised for its originality, significance and rigour.

In assessing the scientific rigour of a proposal we follow AMRC guidelines and those of established funding organizations such as the Medical Research Council, UK and established cancer charities such as the Cancer Research UK. Areas of investigation should span one or more of the fields outlined here.

All funded teams, whatever their location, are considered to be part of the core Prostate Cancer Research Centre (PCRC).  PCRC grantees are expected to work as part of a collegial academic group combining resources to target important problems relevant to men with advanced disease. Over the next two years we will work on new ways to support scientists funded by PCRC. New grantees will be required to develop strategically important areas of research, to build solid links to existing groups, and to add new expertise. For a detailed list of the expectations of new members click here.

We know that objective peer review in reputable scientific journals is the life blood of any research activity. We are also committed to the Open Access philosophy adopted by all established research funders in the UK and elsewhere and also by the Research Excellence Framework in the UK.

Scientific Peer Review

Each research proposal will be assessed by a Grants Review Committee, incorporating a broad range of views with patient participation.  Three main criteria will be used. First, scientific merit as judged against our Research Strategy. Secondly, collaboration with others supported by PCRC. Thirdly, intellectual innovation and when appropriate, the formulation of a path to translation.

Scientific Advisory Committee

The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) consists of UK research scientists who are leading authorities in cancer research. Chaired by Professor Colin Cooper, they review funding proposals and monitor the progress of currently funded projects.

The current Committee consists of:

Professor Colin Cooper
Dr Manit Arya
Professor Jonathan Ashmore
Professor Fouad Habib
Professor Maggie Knowles
Professor Terence Rabbitts
Professor Anne Ridley

When making decisions on grant proposals, the SAC considers reviews from at least two independent experts, and feedback from people directly affected by prostate cancer.

Peer Review

Peer reviewers are scientific experts, with knowledge specific to the applications they are asked to assess. Peer reviewers are independent of the charity and of the SAC, and they score applications based on scientific quality. They consider whether the applicant can deliver the promised project, the technical strengths and weaknesses of the project idea and the methodology that will be used, and its likely impact.

Our peer reviewers are never based in the same department as the scientist whose work they are assessing. We also ask them to sign a declaration stating that they have not collaborated or published with the applicant over the past three years, are not competing with the applicant, have not held grants together with the applicant over the past five years, and that there is no other reason they cannot assess the application impartially.

As a member charity of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), we operate according to the AMRC’s Principles of peer review.

Patient Panel

We ask for “lay abstracts” – short project descriptions written in everyday language – to be included on all funding proposals. People affected by prostate cancer read these lay abstracts and score them, based on:

  • If the idea is explained well
  • If it is interesting, and relevant to men with prostate cancer
  • If there is anything about the proposed research which makes them feel uncomfortable

If you are a current or former prostate cancer patient, or have looked after someone with prostate cancer, and would like information on taking part in future patient panels, please email patientvoice@pcr.org.uk

“It is a privilege to be involved in the selection process for the funding of new projects. For men like me and for our nearest and dearest, it is essential that scientists are able to carry out the work of finding new ways to treat this potentially devastating disease. Treatments for prostate cancer have advanced at a phenomenal rate over the last few years.”

Dr David Matheson 2019 PCRC Patient Panel Member

Basic Science and Target Discovery

The conversion of a normal prostate cell into a life-threatening cancer cell is a complex process involving alterations in expression of thousands of many genes and changes in multiple control pathways.  We seek to support projects where there is clear evidence that the target or process under investigation is central to progression from early to advanced disease, rather than a subsidiary or supporting event.  Or alternatively where a specific change in the advanced cancer cell can be used as an Achilles Heel to develop a new therapy.

 

Re-tasking of existing drugs is another possible strategy.  Based on these principles several new treatments have been cultivated over the last decade. The new therapies relieve symptoms and prolong life, but seldom cure.  There is therefore a need both:

A) to enhance existing treatments to further extend life and relieve symptoms

B) to discover and develop completely novel therapeutic approaches that have the potential to result in cancer cure

The PCRC currently funds the following basic science and drug discovery projects:

  1. Translating fundamental knowledge of stem cells and cancer biology into therapies (Dr Ahmed, Kings College. London), with particular emphasis on the Wnt pathway
  2. The development of a novel new way to harness immunotherapeutic properties of IL-15 (Dr Galustian, Kings College London)
  3. Preventing the spreading of the cancer cells by investigating the role of plexin proteins in underpinning metastasis (Dr Magali Williamson, Kings College London)
  4. The re-tasking of off-label Membrane Potential Regulating Compounds (ion channel and calcium store modulators) (Dr Ahmed, Kings College London)
  5. Driver genes and therapeutic targets in PTEN-deficient metastatic prostate cancer (Dr de la Rosa, University of Cambridge)
  6. Filling a critical knowledge gap in androgen receptor variant splicing to enable development of new prostate cancer therapies (Dr Gaughan, Newcastle University Centre for Cancer)

The PCRC currently funds the following classification and drug targeting projects:

  1. Comprehensive characterisation of prostate cancer subtypes to inform precision medicine (Dr Brewer, University of East Anglia)
  2. Improving 17Lu-PSMA Therapy (Professor Cornelissen, University of Oxford)
  3. Using the prostate cancer CRISPR-Cas9 dynamic screening platform (ProCASP) to explore cellular responses to existing and emerging therapies (Dr Dev, University of Cambridge)

Classification and Drug Targeting (Personalised Medicine)

Prostate cancer is a clinically and molecularly heterogeneous disease. However no clear classification framework has been developed. The lack of a classification framework represents a major problem for the targeting of new therapies and in the development of personalised medicine. Stratifications have been proposed based on the presence of specific genetic alterations (e.g. ERG, ETV1, ETV4, FLI1, SPOP, FOXA1, and IDH1) and a number of rarer cancer subgroups have been defined (e.g. cribriform carcinoma, basal cell prostate cancer, neuroendocrine prostate cancer).

The clinical utility of these divisions in managing advanced disease is still under investigation, although the tailored targeting of patients with specific classes of genetic alteration (stratified medicine) represents a promising area of investigation, as illustrated by the use of PARP inhibitors in the treatment of patients harbouring BRCA mutation.

None-the-less there still is an urgent requirement for better classification frameworks that can used to assist targeting of therapies for advanced cancers, and for the development of linked tests that can be applied in the clinic, which we will consider funding.

Clinical Trials and Trial Support

A large number of clinical trials are underway aimed at testing new treatments for prostate cancer. Some of the major trials are shown in Table 3. We would like to support and develop links to existing clinical trials and help develop new clinical trials where this will allow the testing of discoveries made within Prostate Cancer Research Centre.
We would also consider funding:

A) The development and use of model systems where these are required to test hypotheses and help devise new treatment as illustrated by our work at Cardiff

B) The development of new approaches for tracking and imaging cancer where improvements in monitoring the effectiveness of therapeutic approaches can be demonstrated, such as the use of PMSA staining for cancer imaging.

Our vision is to improve survival and quality of life for men who already have prostate cancer, and to find a cure for prostate cancer for the next generation of men. Accordingly we would consider supporting studies aimed at reducing the side effects of current therapies or focused on developing improved palliative care. In exceptional cases we would consider funding sociological and qualitative studies, particularly when they would lead to observations that could be subsequently tested in quantitative studies.

We recognise the value of biobanking samples from men with advanced disease and developing databases. Would welcome proposals where there a well-defined benefit can be demonstrated and where there is an established link to existing PCRC projects.

Germline and Early Disease

We would normally not fund research into early organ confined prostate cancer, germline alterations or the aetiology of prostate cancer. However, for outstanding studies where a strong link to advanced prostate cancer can be demonstrated we may make exceptions. We are specifically interested in research that will impact on the treatment of patients with advanced disease.

Partnerships and the Funding of Young Researchers

To fulfil our goal of establishing Prostate Cancer Research Centre as a world leading organisation for curing men with advanced prostate cancer strategic, partnerships with other organisations would be welcomed. Partnerships could allow us to combine approaches or provide resources that are essential for achieving our research goals but currently missing from the PCRC portfolio. We are committed to promoting the careers of young researchers. Currently we are seeking to provide this support in partnership with other organisations.

“I very much appreciate your understanding of how difficult it is, especially for early career researchers like me, to gather sufficient preliminary data for such big grant applications."

Dr Jorge de la Rosa Recipient of a 2019 PCRC Pilot Award

Further Information

Funding our research

PCRC intends to fund research using funds raised through various fundraising activities, including events, trusts and foundations, major donors and companies.

In addition, PCRC intends to partner and collaborate with other prostate cancer research and support organisations to maximise the amount of prostate cancer research that is carried out globally.

 

Details of grants provided by PCRC

PCRC intends to provide grants for research projects which are typically 3-5 years in duration.

Grants can include salary support, on costs and consumables. PCRC will also be prepared to fund and support collaborations and conferences for its researchers. Additional support could be provided to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the initial grant.

Researchers supported by PCRC are expected to work as part of a single collegial academic group combining resources to target important problems relevant to men with advanced disease. For a detailed list of the expectations of new members see here.

Who PCRC will fund

PCRC intends to fund research at highly-rated research institutions. This is assessed primarily through the Research Excellence Framework (“REF”), a periodic measurement of research quality in universities and other higher education institutions in the UK against international standards of excellence.

Applicants for major grants should at least have PhD qualification and the support of a senior researcher at their institution.

PCRC intends to focus its resources on funding research in the UK initially, but would consider any research globally as the amount of research that we fund grows

 

How PCRC awards its grants

Initially, PCRC will request interested scientists and researchers submit a short expression of interest. These will be reviewed by a Grant Review Committee and a shortlist selected. Shortlisted candidates will be asked to submit a full application which will be peer reviewed by international reviewers. Based on this, the Grant Review Committee will select successful applicants to be presented to the board for final approval. Further information can be found on our website.

To receive details about our next grant call, email grants@pcr.org.uk

Our Research Strategy underpins everything we do. It describes how we aim to engage and empower scientists and clinicians to create a better future for those affected by prostate cancer.

Press enter or esc to cancel