Project No. 03

The Spread of Prostate Cancer

An exciting new approach to stop the spread of prostate cancer around the body

S c r o l l   R i g h t

The Project

The spread of prostate cancer project is conducting world-first research into cell division and decoding the deadly spread of prostate cancer.

How?

Dr Williamson has discovered that an overexpression of the protein PlexinB1 is common in cases of advanced prostate cancer. The work is now looking to inhibit PlexinB1's functions and stop the cancer spreading.

PlexinB1

PlexinB1 has healthy and necessary functions, so it is important not to 'knock-out' all it's functions. The aim is to develop 'monoclonal' antibodies and only target the functions relevant to the spread of cancerous cells.

What could this achieve?

New antibodies that stop the spread of prostate cancer cells could contain early prostate cancer within the prostate, therefore stopping it from becoming advanced.

The Future

Dr Williamson and her team are currently testing a range of different drugs and, with the results, will begin to look at using them at different stages of the disease.

The Project

The spread of prostate cancer project is conducting world-first research into cell division and decoding the deadly spread of prostate cancer.

How?

Dr Williamson has discovered that an overexpression of the protein PlexinB1 is common in cases of advanced prostate cancer. The work is now looking to inhibit PlexinB1's functions and stop the cancer spreading.

PlexinB1

PlexinB1 has healthy and necessary functions, so it is important not to 'knock-out' all it's functions. The aim is to develop 'monoclonal' antibodies and only target the functions relevant to the spread of cancerous cells.

What could this achieve?

New antibodies that stop the spread of prostate cancer cells could contain early prostate cancer within the prostate, therefore stopping it from becoming advanced.

The Future

Dr Williamson and her team are currently testing a range of different drugs and, with the results, will begin to look at using them at different stages of the disease.

Project Start

December 2014

Research Facility

Cancer Division, King’s College London

Budget

£95,000/year

End

December 2019

What is metastasis?

Cancer which starts in one place, such as the prostate, is called a primary tumour. In some cases, cells can break off the primary tumour and travel around the body. Locally advanced prostate cancer is cancer which has spread to the area just outside the prostate. When cells travel further, they can create new tumours in brand new sites. These are called secondary cancers or metastatic tumours, and the process is called metastasis.

It is after this process of metastasis, or spread, prostate cancer becomes advanced. Advanced prostate cancer is responsible for almost all deaths from prostate cancer.

What is metastasis?

Magali’s Research Project

Dr Magali Williamson’s team focuses on preventing the spreading of the cancer cells by investigating the cellular changes which underpin metastasis. They are interested in a protein, called Plexin B1. In a healthy human, PlexinB1 is involved in cell migration, and it is present in large quantities and often mutated in advanced prostate cancer.

PCRC funded scientist Dr Magali Williamson talks about her work on a protein called Plexin B1, to stop the spread of prostate cancer.

Dr Williamson and her team, backed by PCRC, were responsible for a significant breakthrough in understanding the way that prostate cancer cells spread, when they discovered that PlexinB1 is intrinsic to metastasis in prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer microscope slide staining

The research team is now working to turn this exciting new knowledge into a new treatment for prostate cancer. They’ve proven that metastasis can be reduced by inhibiting Plexin B with a type of protein called a polyclonal antibody. However, because PlexinB1 has healthy functions as well, it doesn’t make sense to completely block it from working. The team are working on getting a better understanding of which functions of the protein are relevant to metastasis, so that they can develop a more specific, targeted therapy, which will be more effective and have fewer side effects than polyclonal antibodies.

Prostate cancer researcher Dr Magali Williamson

What will this mean for prostate cancer patients?

Metastatic prostate cancer is responsible for almost all prostate cancer deaths. In fact, secondary cancer often kills more people than the primary tumour, across many different cancer types. The therapies being developed by Dr Williamson’s team could contain early prostate cancer within the prostate and stop the cancer spreading further, which would dramatically improve the prostate cancer survival rate, and quality of life for men with prostate cancer. This research has huge potential for families affected by all sorts of cancers, as this kind of breakthrough could lead to new ways to cut off the ability of many different types of cancer cells to spread.

The Future

Dr Williamson’s team is currently testing a range of different drugs, called monoclonal antibodies, to see if and how they affect PlexinB1’s role in prostate cancer. The results of these tests will guide the team, so that they can start testing different drugs to see if they successfully inhibit the spread of prostate cancer. They will also look at using these drugs at different stages of the disease, to establish the best time to give them to patients. To do this, they will work with in vivo models originally developed by another PCRC project. Clinical trials would then be the final step before this therapy could become readily available to patients.

Collaborations and Partnerships

Dr Williamson is working with Belgian biotechnology company Eurogentec to manufacture the antibodies and has secured cell samples from the American Department of Defense’s Prostate Cancer Biorepository Network.

Recent Scientific Articles

Plexin-B1 signalling promotes androgen receptor translocation to the nucleus.Williamson M, de Winter P, Masters JR.  Oncogene 2016;35(8):1066-72

Loss of expression of the tumour suppressor gene AIMP3 predicts survival following radiotherapy in muscle-invasive bladder cancer
Gurung PM, Veerakumarasivam A, Williamson M, Counsell N, Douglas J, Tan WS, Feber A, Crabb SJ, Short SC, Freeman A,Powles T, Hoskin PJ, West CM, Kelly JD. Int J Cancer Feb 2015 1;136(3):709-20. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29022.

Function of mutant and wild-type plexinB1 in prostate cancer cells
Damola A, Legendre A, Ball S, Masters JR, Williamson M. Prostate September 2013 73(12):1326-35.

 

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Support Us

Support the spread of prostate cancer project

Any donation you can make will help us fund this cutting-edge, life-saving research.

80% of men have cancer cells in their prostate by the age of 80. Prostate cancer is curable when it is localised within the prostate. It only becomes incurable and dangerous after it has become advanced by spreading around the body. Stopping this spread is at the heart of much of PCRC’s research.

80% Men with prostate cancer by age 80
20% Men with no detectable prostate cancer at 80
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