Brussels, 03 Sep 2003
The European Commission has awarded funding to a new prostate cancer network funded under Priority 1, 'life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health', of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
In the EU, some 200,000 men are diagnosed annually with prostate cancer, a figure which experts say is likely to increase due to Europe's ageing population. Caught early on, prostate cancer is a very treatable disease. However, around half the men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are diagnosed at a late stage, at which point the disease can become unresponsive to hormone therapies. In these cases, the cancer can also spread to the bone, developing into bone metastatic prostate cancer.
The PRIMA network, an Integrated Project, brings together a total of 14 academic groups and three private companies from four EU Member States and Israel to investigate the pathways that lead to prostate cancer becoming unresponsive to hormone therapies and spreading to the bone. In particular, the network will study the interaction between the prostate cancer cells and the bone micro-environment.
Jack Schalken, coordinator of the project from Nijmegen University in the Netherlands spoke to CORDIS News and outlined one of the pitfalls of existing treatments for prostate cancer. 'For the moment, the only accepted therapies for advanced forms of the cancer are physical and chemical castration. While this might result in better disease control, it does not rule out cancer cells becoming unresponsive to therapy and spreading to other parts of the body.'
In the place of using models, the scientific team will analyse tissues of prostate cancer patients in order to examine the pathways that lead to the cancer spreading. The consortium will then set about developing a therapy that is complementary to existing treatments. Bearing in mind that the genetic structures of cancer cells can easily undergo alterations, the consortium will explore all therapeutic avenues, such as small molecule treatments, androgen signalling pathways, and novel immunotherapies.
Once validated, the screened therapy will be brought to a clinical trial phase and, if successful, the consortium is hopeful that the therapy can eventually be commercialised.
Professor Schalken believes that the extensive and integrated knowledge contained within the PRIMA network will enable it to carry out unprecedented work in the field of prostate cancer research and diagnosis. 'Adopting the Integrated Project structure has allowed us to bring together the critical mass necessary to tackle this very serious health problem,' he claimed.