Biomarkers to Improve Outcomes in Prostate Cancer (BIOPC)

The incidence of prostate cancer has risen considerably in Australia over the last decade, with over 16,000 new cases and 3,400 deaths predicted in 2017.  In Tasmania, prostate cancer presents an enormous challenge to the community; there are 400 - 500 men diagnosed and 100 men die of their cancer annually.  As the population continues to age, these numbers will only increase.

This disease also presents a challenge to clinicians; a third of men will progress after diagnosis to develop life-threatening disease but there are currently no tests to determine who these men will be. Therefore, both clinicians and patients are faced with a dilemma regarding whether to go ahead with treatment or not.  As most treatment options are invasive and associated with significant side-effects, this is not an easy decision to make when two-thirds of men may be treated unnecessarily.  Furthermore, patients don’t always respond the same way to the same treatment; a drug that works well and slows cancer in one man may not work as well, or at all, in another man.  This is also true for treatment side-effects, some men have no side-effects to a particular drug while other men may have such bad side-effects that they have to cease treatment.

There is now evidence to suggest that some of the differences in treatment responses and side-effects may be due to underlying genetic variation.  This is best illustrated in breast cancer where women with genetic variants (mutations) in DNA repair genes respond well to PARP inhibitors whereas women without these genetic variants do not.

We have established the Biomarkers to Improve Outcomes in Prostate Cancer (BIOPC) study with the goal of identifying genetic variants that predict how a man will respond to prostate cancer treatments (e.g. radiation therapy, androgen deprivation therapies, chemotherapies, etc.) and whether they are more likely to have treatment side-effects (e.g. fatigue, incontinence, impotence, etc.).  We aim to identify such genetic variants through combining genetic information (from blood and tumour tissue samples) with clinical information from the Movember-funded Prostate Cancer Outcomes Registry – Tasmania (PCOR-TAS).

This project is a participant-based study and we will be contacting potential participants (men diagnosed with prostate cancer since February 2015) by mail.  We will be asking men to provide a blood or saliva sample and permission for us to access their stored prostate tumour samples and PCOR-TAS data.

Research Groups

Related Diseases

Menzies Team Members

  • Dr Liesel FitzGerald (Project Lead - Research Fellow)
  • Associate Professor Jo Dickinson (Senior Research Fellow)
  • James Marthick (Senior Research Assistant)
  • Jackie Townley (Research Nurse)

External Collaborators

  • Brian Stokes (Tasmanian Cancer Registry; PCOR-TAS)
  • Dr Marketa Skala (Radiation Oncologist, RHH)
  • Dr Frank Redwig (Urologist, RHH)
  • Dr Shaun Donovan (Pathologist, Hobart Pathology)
  • Dr Ros Malley (Pathology Registrar, RHH)
  • Assistant Professor Brian Helfand