This PhD was part funded through the Knowledge and Economy Skills Scholarship 2 Programme which you can find out more about here
The project aimed to identify novel therapies for prostate cancer driven by abnormal activation of the PI3K signalling pathway which promotes metabolism, proliferation, cell survival and growth in response to extracellular signals. Loss of a tumour suppressor gene called PTEN within this pathway generates a more aggressive prostate cancer than prostate cancer caused by the main facilitator of this pathway, therefore the project sought to identify the molecular mechanisms behind these differences to better understand how the two tumour types can be treated in the clinic.
By performing highly in-depth analysis of genetic profiles taken from prostate tumours that do not possess PTEN, the team identified significantly increased expression of genes involved in an additional signalling pathway responsible for processes such as the immune response, cell survival and inflammation. Therapeutic targeting of this pathway was explored in a range of 2D and 3D cell and tissue culture models, which suggested potential benefit for targeting this pathway in prostate cancer patients.
If pre-clinical data shows promise for advancing into human prostate cancer clinical trials, this project will have found a therapy that will specifically help patients that have lost the tumour suppressor PTEN. As loss of PTEN is a frequently observed driver of prostate cancer, these findings have the potential to help a large proportion of patients that may have otherwise undergone alternative treatments that are not specific enough to fully target the molecular mechanisms facilitating tumour growth.
The student has now gone on to develop novel platforms for sequencing genetic material that will assist hospitals/companies fight genetic disease and cancer. The research group at Cardiff University continues to work on projects closely linked to this PhD.