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Oxford Researcher awarded nearly £1m to explore potential "game changing" treatment for prostate cancer

An Oxford researcher has been awarded almost £1m from Cancer Research UK to investigate a new form of treatment for prostate cancer.

Dr Richard Bryant, a consultant urologist and surgeon who treats patients from across Oxfordshire, will use the cash injection to investigate combining a new form of treatment alongside conventional radiotherapy for men with advanced or aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

If his research proves to be both safe and effective for patients, Dr Bryant believes it could be “game-changing” for men diagnosed with the disease in the future.

Dr Bryant, a consultant urological surgeon at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, was awarded a Clinician Scientist Fellowship, which supports cancer doctors carrying out research. He will receive £847,242 over five years to carry out his research, in collaboration with the Department of Oncology, in the hope of transforming treatments for future prostate cancer patients.

His project will look at the use of vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy (VTP) – a novel form of minimally invasive surgery that uses light treatment to target the destruction of a specific area of tissue such as a tumour while limiting any potential damage to healthy tissue – in combination with radiotherapy. The aim is to establish if the combined VTP and radiotherapy treatment is more effective that each treatment given alone.

Prostate cancer is the commonest cancer in men in the United Kingdom and around 500 men are diagnosed in Oxfordshire every year.

Many patients currently receive a course of radiotherapy, which is delivered over approximately six weeks. Many of these patients will be cured by radiotherapy, but in some patients the cancer can return, and in addition to this the radiotherapy itself can have significant side effects.

The new form of light treatment, or VTP, damages the blood vessels and ‘starves tumours’ thereby destroying them.

It has recently been tested in clinical trials for patients with very low-risk and low-volume early-stage prostate cancer and has been demonstrated to be safe and effective in those individuals, but it has not yet been used in combination with another treatment such as radiotherapy, nor has it used to treat more aggressive or advanced prostate cancer.

Dr Bryant said: “Radiotherapy can cure many cases of prostate cancer, but it can cause difficult side effects and it may not be able to successfully treat some patients – possibly because the cancer has already spread or because some patients have a particularly aggressive form of the disease.

“We know that radiotherapy can still be improved and this is where I hope that this project takes us. We want to see if we can combine radiotherapy with another novel treatment. If we can show that this is safe and achievable then it could lead to a reduction in the necessary radiotherapy dose currently given to men with prostate cancer, thereby reducing the side effects of treatment.”

He added: “It is highly exciting research and I feel that this could be a potential game-changer for radiotherapy treatment for men with prostate cancer. My hope is that it could lead to a step-change in the delivery of modern radiotherapy with the addition of a minimally invasive form of targeted surgery, and my aim would be to have early-phase clinical trials in patients within five years.”

Dr Karen Noble, head of research training and fellowships at Cancer Research UK, said: “These awards allow us to support talented clinicians who will become the next generation of leaders in cancer research.  

“They help encourage clinicians to continue to carry out vital research in conjunction with their clinical work treating patients

“This exciting piece of work which the Clinical Careers Committee has chosen to fund will discover if a new approach to the treatment of prostate cancer works well – and most importantly is safe – in patients.”

 Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Careers Committee supports clinicians and allied health professionals working in areas spanning basic and translational research. It meets twice a year to assess applications which are judged on the basis of scientific excellence, the research environment, the candidate’s track record, and relevance of the research to the aims of Cancer Research UK.

 

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