Project Summary

We study cancer in the lab using models of the disease. Models are very useful in helping us to understand cancer, and to make sure drugs are safe before they are tested in humans

At the moment, we don’t have enough models for advanced prostate cancer, which is slowing research down

This team have developed world-class, brand new models of prostate cancer, which will speed up research into advanced disease

They have used their models to make a number of new and important discoveries

PlexinB1 helps cells to move, and helps cancer cells to spread

They are investigating whether blocking PlexinB1 will stop cancer from spreading

A cheap drug used for diabetes could stop prostate cancer from spreading

They are working with other PCR researchers to test potential new drugs

About the Researchers

European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, Cardiff University

Professor Matt Smalley

Principal Investigator

Matt is the Director of the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute in Cardiff. He has extensive experience with mouse models of cancer including hormone-driven cancers and their use in pre-clinical studies.

Dr Boris Shorning


Boris is a Research Associate at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute in Cardiff. He established the mouse models used in this project and generated the preliminary data.

What are cancer models?

Preclinical models of cancer are cells or tissues used in the lab to study how cancer works, and are important for testing new treatments before they are given to humans.

Modelling has greatly contributed to our understanding of cancer, and due to the cost and possible risk to humans associated with clinical trials, thorough testing of any new treatment using models is very important.

PCR funded scientist Professor Matt Smalley, Director of the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, who is creating new prostate cancer models, explains why we need these models.

It’s important that cancer models are appropriate, and resemble the real behaviour of human cancers as much as possible.

For example, you wouldn’t test a prostate cancer drug using a breast cancer model. At the minute, there aren’t enough preclinical models of advanced prostate cancer, and the models that exist are less than ideal. It’s hard to see if new treatments reduce symptoms, and impossible to study the long-term outcomes of a new therapy.

Matt and Boris' Research Project

The lack of advanced prostate cancer models is hindering progress.

PCR funded experts at Cardiff University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, are working to overcome this. They are developing innovative, world-first models to test the effectiveness of treatments for metastatic prostate cancer, to see if they are good enough and safe enough to be tested in humans.

The team have already used their models to help PCR scientist, Dr Williamson, validate protein PlexinB1 as a therapeutic target to treat prostate cancer. This is an indication of how valuable these models are and they can be used to further test any and all potential therapies before they go to clinical trial, which will save researchers a lot of time and money.

Cancer cells viewed with a microscope

The primary purpose of these models is to test the effectiveness of new treatments being developed by other PCR scientists – immunotherapy, PlexinB1 inhibition, and repurposing MPCRs. However, they will also be useful for any therapies, treatments and investigations that PCR undertake in the future.

Research lab at European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSRI), Cardiff University

Prostate cancer is a highly complicated disease. Better models will increase our understanding of the disease, help to develop much better therapies – and get new therapies to patients much, much faster.

The Future

Professor Matt Smalley and Dr Boris Shorning will continue to develop in vivo models of advanced prostate cancer. These models will enable new highly detailed, non-surgical imaging techniques to be used which will enhance our understanding of the effects of new treatments on a molecular level. In addition to their work with Dr Williamson, they are also beginning to work with Dr Christine Galustian’s team, bringing novel immunotherapy for prostate cancer closer to the clinic.

Collaborations and Partnerships

This project collaborates with and enhances our other PCR-funded projects.

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