Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men in the UK. Radical surgery is one of the two treatment options for patients with high risk disease. This treatment is effective for treating cancer confined to prostate. However the spread of the disease outside the gland makes it difficult to see the exact extent of the tumour during surgery. As a result, cancer cells are often left behind and continue to grow and spread, leading to the recurrence of the disease.
In Oxford, we developed a novel camera and imaging system to visualise cells by making them fluoresce (i.e. shine) during surgery, and to identify them by giving patients a reagent attached to a dye, which will specifically bind to the cancer cells. The combination of these two advances makes it possible to see prostate cancer cells during surgery. This should greatly facilitate complete surgical removal of tumours. In this project, we are running a clinical trial to evaluate how useful these technologies are for achieving high level ‘precision surgery’ to improve cure rates in patients with prostate cancer.
We will also perform the genetic analysis of the tumours confined to the prostate, and the cancers that have spread to the surrounding tissues. Through comparison of the two, we will identify genetic changes that drive cancer progression and spread. In the future this will allow identification of patients at risk of the disease development, and will provide the basis for personalised treatment.