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John van Geest Cancer Research Centre successes include breakthroughs in prostate cancer diagnosis and breast cancer therapy

The John van Geest Cancer Research Centre on Nottingham Trent’s Clifton Campus is a world leading research centre, with emphasis on breast, prostate, brain and blood cancers.

We’ve been working to support the John van Geest Centre since 2015, when we visited the centre on Nottingham Trent University’s Clifton Campus. Blown away by the work of the world-leading centre, we decided to turn some of our fundraising efforts closer to home.

Read on to find out about the latest successes in a series of breakthroughs for the centre. Previous work has included paving the way to better understand how prostate cancer spreads around the body, identifying a breast cancer gene which indicated which patients will benefit from chemotherapy, and the development of a new vaccine to target the most deadly form of brain tumour.

Scientists and clinicians have developed a blood test which can confirm the presence or absence of prostate cancer, removing the need for unnecessary biopsies.  It’s thought that this new blood test, developed as part of a study involving Nottingham Trent University and University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust, could help avoid 70% of prostate biopsies.

The test works by monitoring the immune system’s response to the presence of cancer. It has the potential to spare men with no cancer, or low-risk cancer, from having to undergo biopsies and other diagnostic procedures and tests.

Men are currently screened for the potential presence of prostate cancer using a PSA bloodtest (Prostate Specific Antigen). However, elevated levels of the antigen do not necessarily mean the man has prostate cancer, nor do “normal” levels exclude its presence. Currently, the only way to know for sure if you have prostate cancer, is to undergo an invasive and painful tissue biopsy.

The research team at the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre is now looking for funding for the next stage of the project, which would involve confirming the results in a large number of patients and determining whether the same approach can be used to distinguish aggressive from non-aggressive disease.

Breast cancer patients could also be spared unnecessary treatment, following identification of a breast cancer protein which indicates whether a patient is likely to respond to a particular type of therapy.

The study could mean that in the UK alone, thousands of women each year could be spared treatment from which they would not benefit.

The researchers found that women with two types of breast cancer (oestrogen receptor negative and HER2 positive), who express this protein on the surface of their cancer cells, are likely to respond well to the drug Herceptin. This means that patients could be screened and recommended for the Herceptin therapy, should they express the protein.

The study investigated 1,650 tissue samples, and it is thought that – in the UK alone – about 4,500 breast cancer patients a year would benefit from screening before being prescribed the treatment.

If you’d like to learn more about the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre and support their work, click here. 100% of donations go to life-changing research.