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Department of Oncology


Charlie Massie has been awarded a Prostate Cancer UK research award to investigate the epigenetic evolution of prostate cancer. 

Epigenetics is the study of how your own behaviours and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work, without changing our DNA. Epigenetics has been linked to a number of diseases.

In collaboration with Rakesh Heer, Professor of Urology at the University of Newcastle, the researchers will use epigenetics to search for changes which happen very early in a cancer’s development and lead to aggressive disease. They will use this new understanding of the evolution of prostate cancer to identify people more likely to develop aggressive cancers that need treatment and those at lower risk of aggressive cancer, or cancer at all.

This project could also lead to predictive testing in men in their 40s to identify those at risk even before they have developed cancer. Rakesh and Charlie hope to identify new treatment approaches whether that be through targeting the epigenetic changes that drive prostate cancer, preventing disease progression or preventative therapies.

Ultimately, the aim is to develop a blood test which can be used to screen for aggressive prostate cancer. Identifying those at risk of aggressive disease will enable doctors to detect those patients who need early treatment and those who may be able to avoid treatment and side effects such as incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and body changes such as the growth of breast tissue.