Kirsteen Campbell receives major award to investigate advanced prostate cancer
30th June 2021
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, for example it affects 1 in 10 men in Scotland. Glasgow-based scientist Dr Kirsteen Campbell, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, has just received a major award of £273,534 from the charity Prostate Cancer Research (PCR) to investigate if a protein called MCL-1 could lead to new treatment options.
Kirsteen's award bucks the trend at a time when funding for non-COVID health research has been cut dramatically with some clinical trials being cancelled or postponed and some researchers leaving the sector. The award made by PCR is part of £1.4 million awarded by the charity to new research projects that could have a real impact for those living with advanced prostate cancer. PCR already funds 10 projects across the UK, including one led by Professor Iain J. McEwan at the University of Aberdeen, which is exploring new approaches to hormone therapy for prostate cancer to keep it working for longer.
Patients with advanced prostate cancer have been found to have high levels of a protein called MCL-1. Kirsteen's team hope to understand why this is and develop new treatment options. Little is known about the role of MCL-1 in prostate cancer, but patients with high levels of the protein are more likely to have their lives cut short by the disease than those with low levels. High levels of MCL-1 have also been linked to resistance to hormone therapy, and drugs targeting MCL-1 have already been developed to treat blood cancers. The researchers believe that these drugs could also be used to treat prostate cancer more effectively than current treatments. Kirsteen explains 'We will bring a novel approach to the investigation of advanced prostate cancer, where we believe that drugs already in clinical trials for other types of cancer could be exploited to eliminate prostate cancer cells from the body.'
In 2020 the charity launched a report on the overall prostate cancer research and funding landscape. This report revealed that over 60% of prostate cancer funding in the UK from 2002/3 – 2018/19 was concentrated within the so-called 'Golden Triangle' of London, Oxford and Cambridge, whereas Scotland received just 10% of this funding. Researchers based outside of the Golden Triangle reported, via both surveys and focus groups, that it could be more challenging to attract funding, collaborators, and recruit staff as a result of their location. In response, PCR has pledged to be vigilant against location and institution bias, and to only fund the best scientists with the best ideas, irrespective of where they are based.
'Dr Kirsteen Campbell's work is innovative in that she is taking lessons from research into other cancers, like breast and blood, and applying them to prostate cancer. We hope that this means she and her team will be able to quickly make discoveries which can give patients with advanced prostate cancer more options – all the more important now that the pandemic is likely to lead to significant numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer at a later stage.' Dr Naomi Elster, Head of Research, Prostate Cancer Research
'We will bring a novel approach to the investigation of advanced prostate cancer, where we believe that drugs already in clinical trials for other types of cancer could be exploited to eliminate prostate cancer cells from the body. We aim to expedite the development of these new therapeutics in combination with current prostate cancer treatments and are delighted to use this PCR award to help make a difference to the lives of patients with prostate cancer.' Dr Kirsteen Campbell, Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute