Prostate Cancer Research
What and where is the Prostate
The prostate is a gland only men have. It is located just below the bladder and encircles the urethra − the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the penis. The prostate is an essential part of the male reproductive system being responsible for providing most of the fluid in which sperm is transported.
As men get older their prostate gland increases in size. In young men a healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut and weighs around 15 grams. In a man in his fifties it will have grown to about twice this size.
Because the prostate grows as a man gets older, the enlarged prostate can affect the flow of urine from the bladder causing difficulty with peeing. A man with an enlarged prostate may feel the need to go to the toilet more frequently for instance.
An enlarged prostate can be associated with prostate cancer, but more often with prostatitis (an inflammation of the prostate gland) or a common condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Unlike breast cancer there are no visible indications or personal checks that can be carried out.
Risks of contracting Prostate Cancer
The causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood. It is more prevalent in black men and there is evidence that it runs in families − the risk almost trebles if a father or brother has had it. Other risk factors include physical inactivity and heavy consumption of red meats and fatty foods.
The risk of contracting prostate cancer increases with age. Men aged 50 and over have an increased risk of prostate cancer. At least 40% of men aged 70 have prostate cancer. However, the rate at which prostate cancer grows is very variable, so most of these men will never know they have prostate cancer. But where the cancer has spread outside the prostate gland the cancer can be very difficult to treat
Symptoms of prostate cancer
The symptoms of prostate cancer may be very subtle or their onset so gradual that they may not be noticed at all at first.
A lack of symptoms is common in men with early stage prostate cancer. When symptoms do become obvious it can be that the cancer has been present in the prostate for some time.
Whilst many of the symptoms listed below could indicate prostate cancer they could just as likely be caused by benign disease. Men should seek medical advice immediately they become aware of any of the following symptoms:
Problems with urination (the most common indicator of prostate cancer)
- frequent visits to the toilet (especially at night)
- need to rush to the toilet to pass urine
- pain when passing urine
- a weak or dribbling urine stream
- having to wait a long time before urine starts to flow
- a feeling of not having emptied the bladder fully
Other possible symptoms (rare)
- blood in the urine and/or semen
- chronic lower back pain or bone pain
- impotence (difficulty having an erection)
- unexplained weight loss
Remember: getting an early diagnosis of prostate cancer is critical to successful treatment and possible cure.
If you would like more information about prostate cancer log onto the Prostate Cancer Research Centre´s (PCRC) website at: www.prostate- cancer-research.org.uk/
For a free copy of the PCRC´s excellent information booklet Treating Prostate Cancer Questions and Answers call: 020 7848 7546 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a step in the right direction and help us fight Prostate cancer.
The Prostate Cancer Research Centre (PCRC) laboratory is based within Kings College. London. It has a worldwide reputation for innovation and discovery in the field of prostate cancer research. Under the leadership of Professor John Masters the Research Centre employs 8 scientists and support staff and needs £1M each year to fund new research.
Meeting the cost of carrying out that research is a constant challenge. In order to make the breakthroughs that will improve survival and save lives the Centre has to ensure that funds are in place now and in the future.
The PCRC is dedicated to developing novel treatments for advanced prostate cancer. It is focused on two areas of research:
1. The genetic changes that allow prostate cancer to spread
2. Prostate cancer stem cells
Prostate Cancer Spread
While prostate cancer is restricted to the prostate it is cured with surgery or radiotherapy. But once it has spread beyond the prostate it is difficult to cure. It is crucial for PCRC to understand how and why the prostate cancer cells spread in order to be able to design treatments to delay or prevent this happening and kill any cells that have spread.
PCRC scientists have made an important breakthrough. They have discovered that a gene that helps to control cell movement is mutated frequently in prostate cancer. The team believes that the cancer cells have hi-jacked this gene to help them spread.
Money raised by Snowdon 500 is now being used to identify drugs that will target the mutation and hopefully stop or kill the cancer cells.
Prostate Cancer Stem Cells
Within every cancer there is a small number of stem cells that are responsible for the growth and progression of the cancer. If we can target and kill the cancer stem cells it may be possible to increase survival and maybe even cure some cancers. The goal is to develop prostate cancer stem cell therapy.
PCRC take forward a major new Research Programme
In November 2014 PCRC teamed up with Kings College London and will fund a 5 year programme to design a new form of therapy to boost the immune system in prostate cancer patients. The new technology is designed to target and attach specifically to prostate cancer cells and stimulate the patient´s immune system. Because these molecules will only attach to prostate cancer cells, they won´t cause toxic side effects in other parts of the body. Over the next 5 years the team based at Kings College London will design a range of immune therapy based on this new technology and it is hoped that the research will go from the laboratory to the bedside to treat patients with prostate cancer.
This new partnership is an exciting development and funds raised by The Snowdon 500 Challenge and the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge will play an important part in taking this work forward to a successful conclusion, providing new hope for men suffering from prostate cancer.
"Nine years ago my life was taken away from me. Today I have it back"
In the summer of 2003 Matt first noticed he had to go to the loo at night more often than usual. He dismissed it immediately as nothing to worry about − at 57 he put it down to age.
In December 2003 Matt visited his GP with a chest infection and in passing mentioned the more frequent nocturnal visits to the loo. The doctor sent him for a blood test to check his Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. The test showed his PSA count was 153 - the normal range is somewhere between 0 and 4. He went for a biopsy which confirmed that cancer was present and that worse still; it was a particularly aggressive version which was inoperable.
At this juncture Matt was told he could expect to live for two, possibly three years and so should start to, ´get his affairs in order´. In a cloud of disbelief and shock Matt drove away from the hospital, stopping to fill up his car with unleaded petrol - despite it being a Ford Focus Diesel car. His first day as a newly diagnosed cancer sufferer was spent trying to drain unleaded petrol out of the car. For about five weeks Matt lived in a haze of emotional turmoil, agony, anger and denial.
He started hormone therapy immediately to slow the growth of the cancer which was combined with some radiotherapy to counteract unwanted side effects of hormone therapy (breast enlargement). The radiotherapy was given to him by clinical oncologist and trustee of the Prostate Cancer Research Centre, Dr Heather Payne.
Despite the pessimistic prognosis, Matt was determined he wouldn´t be beaten. After receiving the prognosis of two years, Matt told his consultant that he would plan to climb Kilimanjaro on the second anniversary of his cancer diagnoses.. Wanting to regain control of his life, Matt enrolled at a gym and started a healthy diet cutting out all dairy products, red meat, sugar and anything with a high fat content.
In late 2004 Matt underwent a procedure called High Dose Rate Bracytherapy, involving very high doses of radiation being delivered direct to the prostate in an attempt to kill all of the cancer there. This was followed up by a six week course of intensive external beam radiotherapy designed to mop up cancer cells floating around the pelvic area. This stabilised his disease and reduced his PSA to very low levels.
In February 2006, two years on from the anniversary of being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, Matt climbed Kilimanjaro and raised £9,000 for the Prostate Cancer Research Centre. This spurred him to set up and organise an annual Charity Challenge event known as the Snowdon 500 Challenge. The event involves up to 500 people from all over the UK climbing Mt Snowdon to raise funds for prostate cancer research and more recent6ly he has added a Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge event. In the past 5 years a grand total of around £750,000 has been raised, helping to make a huge contribution to research projects being carried out at the Prostate Cancer Research Centre in London.
Quite apart from this, Matt has been able to maintain an active lifestyle playing golf and travelling widely. In October 2010 he trekked to Annapurna Base Camp (in Nepal) and in April 2011, Matt trekked to and camped at Everest Base Camp.
Matt says "I´ve always been a fairly adventurous person, and since my diagnosis I have just embraced the opportunity to do the things I´ve always wanted to do, from climbing up to Everest Base Camp to learning to play the guitar and taking up golf!"
Matt continues to look forward with optimism to a full life ahead. He keeps in close contact with his son currently working in Islamabad (Pakistan) and he regularly visits Girona in Spain to see his daughter and his grand-child, enjoying every month that passes to the fullest.
He concludes, "When I was first diagnosed I was told I had two years to live, but now nine years later I have had the opportunity to achieve some of my big personal goals, and have even been lucky enough to welcome a grandchild into the world! It also means I have been given the time to continue with organising and managing the Snowdon 500 and Welsh 3 Peaks Challenges which will hopefully help to bring the day a prostate cancer cure is found that bit closer".
Matt ultimately did not win his battle with cancer, but he fought it with great courage. When originally diagnosed in 2004, he was given 3 years to live. It is testament to his resilience and tenacity, as well as to the advances in prostate cancer treatment, that he lived so much longer than that, and used those years to achieve so much.
With the money raised from Snowdon 500, the Prostate Cancer Research Centre is pioneering work that will help to ensure that men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the future can live even longer and fuller lives.
Matt would have been proud to know that he left such a legacy. And he would have hoped that others fighting their own battles with cancer would be inspired by his story to set and pursue their goals with the same determination as he did.
Anyone wanting to support Matt's memory and Prostate Cancer Research by participating in the next Snowdon 500 Challenge or Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge (May 2017) can sign up or find out more by going to www.snowdon 500.co.uk.
6 years ago Matt Rannamets came up with the idea of organising and managing the annual Snowdon 500 Challenge (and more recently the PCRC Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge) to raise funds for the Prostate Cancer Research Centre. Having already raised £750,000 in the past 5 years he is aiming to reach £1M by May 2014. Matt more recently agreed to take part in the Every Month Matters campaign to further help awareness about this killer disease.
Matt was diagnosed with high-risk locally advanced prostate cancer in December 2003. At the time he was told he could expect to live for two, possibly three, years and so should consider 'getting his affairs in order'.
In this film - nine years after his original diagnosis - Matt, together with his family and friends, provide an account of why Every Month Matters to them. This film has been developed as part of the Every Month Matters initiative to illustrate the experience of living with advanced prostate cancer. You can view the short film below.
Every Month Matters is a pan-European disease awareness campaign supported and funded by Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd., which aims to raise awareness of the impact of advanced prostate cancer on patients, families, healthcare systems and the wider economy, whilst exploring differences in care delivery and treatment access in the UK and across Europe. To find out more about Every Month Matters visit: everymonth matters.org