Southmead Hospital consultant explains importance of prostate cancer research supported by Bristol's Run for the Future

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Ed Rowe

Consultant Ed Rowe from the Bristol Urological Institute at Southmead Hospital explains the research that is being carried out into prostate cancer and how it is supported by the annual Run for the Future event.

There are two main reasons why prostate cancer has earned its reputation as the ‘silent killer’.

For one thing, it does not necessarily present any particularly tell-tale symptoms – in some cases men can develop the disease without presenting any symptoms at all.

Secondly, progression varies widely from one patient to the next. In some men the disease takes hold quickly, in others its progress is far slower.

Run for the Future, organised by Bristol Rotarians, has been supporting research in Bristol since 2006, helping us find the answers to these apparent contradictions and identify the factors which determine outcomes.

Prostate cancer has roughly the same statistics as breast cancer but there’s no screening programme in place yet so it’s vital for men – especially men in their fifties - to get tested.

So our immediate goal is to raise public awareness of the disease to ensure that men are made aware of the risks and begin treatment as early as possible.

This year we are running a Bristol and District prostate cancer awareness campaign, running from 1-14 September and ending with the annual family 5k Run for the Future on Sunday 14 September.

We are also looking at longer term solutions which could help us extend our knowledge of the disease and unlock the apparently unconnected factors which govern the symptoms and speed of development of this ‘silent killer’.  

One of our longer term aspirations is to open a biobank to collect and store cells and samples, building up a database to speed future diagnosis and help us make better informed decisions for individuals and the best treatment programmes for them.

This will provide potentially lifesaving information based on the experiences of a large number of previous patients – and help us identify common factors which shape the course of the disease – and identify the most effective course of treatment.

The biobank would keep the Bristol Urological Institute at the forefront of research into the disease – and help save even more lives than at present through a better understanding of how the various interlocking factors affect different patients.

Over the past eight years the Run for the Future event, organised by Bristol Rotarians on Bristol Downs, has raised a massive £250,000 to seed-fund basic research into key aspects of prostate cancer using the research facilities of both UWE and Bristol University.

Since then the emphasis has shifted to better understand the mechanisms by which cancer cells grow and identify the most appropriate molecular techniques to use to study prostate cancer expression.

Money raised by Run for the Future has supported important research at UWE into ways of identifying aggressive forms of prostate cancer focusing on a specific gene – ERG - which is present in approximately 50 per cent of all prostate cancers and is significantly associated with ‘worse outcome’.

This may be used to help identify those patients with the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer that require radical treatment.

Money from the annual Run for the Future event has also helped groundbreaking research into rapid prostate and bladder cancer detection at The University of the West of England and Bristol University.

Following on from work using sniffer dogs’ noses to detect such cancers in urine samples, as an alternative to the traditional PSA blood test, an electronic nose device, which is comparable to the high sensitivity of the dogs in detecting these cancers, has now been developed.

Run for the Future is providing us with the money and means to continue this groundbreaking work and this year for the first time ever organisers are planning an awareness week in the lead up to the main event on Sunday 14 September.

We’re hoping that an increase in awareness will save more men’s lives and generate even more valuable funds for our work at the BUI.

You can register to take part in the run via the website at www.runforthefuture.org or phone 0117 414 7942 for a form or advice.