Our prostate cancer research
Our aim is to identify better treatment options that are tailored to an individual’s cancer.
Prostate cancer is a very common cancer — but for some men, it’s more aggressive and life-threatening. After these men have surgery (for e.g. to remove the prostate) the cancer may appear again in the bones.
We are finding ways to identify aggressive prostate cancer with tests for specific markers in the tissue and blood. These tests can guide treatment decisions. We also want to understand why prostate cancer is more aggressive and lethal in some men.
Some men diagnosed with prostate cancer already have cancer in their bones. Different treatments are used for such advanced cancers; but not all men respond to the same therapy, or eventually stop responding. By looking for specific blood markers that indicate who’ll respond best, we can again select the most suitable therapy and prevent unnecessary treatment.
We are also researching how and why the cancer becomes resistant to therapy, and identifying new treatment strategies to overcome this.
Better treatments for prostate cancer will lead to a better quality of life and survival rates.
You can support our goal to find better treatments for prostate cancer.
Key areas of investigation
i-DZOMO: a prostate cancer initiative for African men
In Africa, prostate cancer is lethal, claiming the lives of four in 10 South African men. Comparatively, one in ten European men will die from the disease. Professor Vanessa Hayes and her team seek to understand why an African ancestry is a significant risk factor for prostate cancer mortality.
Excitingly, through a pilot study with six South African men, the team has already identified significant genetic differences that could account for the disparity in death rates.
The genomic signature identified in this study, suggests an unknown carcinogen (cancer causing agent) contributing to lethal prostate cancer in Africa.
Compared with non-Africans, the number of tumour mutations (changes in DNA) was almost four-fold greater within African men than reported for non-Africans to date. The genomic signature identified in the small pilot study suggests an unknown carcinogen contributing to lethal prostate cancer in Africa.
There is significant potential for these findings to be translated directly into treatment options, specifically immunotherapy.
i-DZOMO will also facilitate a network of other countries across Africa to replicate the design of this study, underpinning a significant African contribution to current research efforts focused on precision medicine.
In addition to address prostate cancer mortality rates, i-DZOMO will contribute genome data for 500 African prostate cancer patients through the process of the study. This will represent a global first in access to rare and precious genomic information.
The human genome diversity within South Africa and Namibia far exceeds the diversity of all populations living outside Africa combined. Professor Hayes and her team hope to define the extent of human genome diversity within South Africa and Namibia. This will not only assist in defining prostate cancer risk and outcomes, including tumour progression, within Southern Africa, but give rich insights into health and disease more broadly.
i-DZOMO is led by three academic institutions within Africa, the University of Pretoria, University of Nairobi, and the University of Rwanda, with international support provided by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Prof Vanessa Hayes also holds the Petre Chair of Prostate Cancer Research, University of Sydney.