New funding for prostate cancer to prevent spread of the disease

Scientists at the University of Nottingham have discovered that prostate cancer is able to spread through a man’s body by taking off the genetic ‘handbrake’ that stops cells growing out of control — and a new project will now work out how to put the brakes back on.

Prostate Researchers

Meet Dr Corinne Woodcock

Dr Corinne Woodcock is a Research Fellow in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and is leading the research.

Thanks to a new injection of funds, Dr Woodcock is going to target this process with a treatment that she hopes will reactivate key tumour suppressor genes. This should make cells follow their instructions to put the brakes back on uncontrolled growth, therefore halting or preventing the spread of disease.

We caught up with Dr Woodcock to hear all about this exciting new research.


Please introduce yourself and share a little bit about your role at the university.

I completed my PhD at the University of Nottingham and stayed on as a postdoctoral researcher to continue my research with Professor Nigel Mongan within the prostate cancer research team. My postdoctoral training was enabled by the generous financial support from an alumnus to the prostate cancer team through CARO. I was recently awarded with a Prostate Cancer UK Career Acceleration Fellowship.

Can you please summarise your input and the wider prostate cancer research project?

This funding (£271k) was awarded through the prestigious Prostate Cancer UK Career Acceleration Fellowship scheme. This three-year fellowship enables me to continue my career development in Nottingham as part of Nigel’s team. This offers me the time to continue to be mentored, and develop the skills needed to become an independent researcher at the end of the fellowship. The fellowship therefore accelerates my career trajectory and helps ensure I will be well prepared to make the best positive impact for men with prostate cancer. 

I am continuing our research within a team of researchers and clinicians, with the work being led at the University of Nottingham, with support from world leading collaborators at the Medical University of Vienna, Weill Cornell Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan, Umeå University, KU Leuven, and the University of Cambridge, who bring multi-disciplinary expertise to ensure our prostate cancer research will ultimately improve the lives of men with prostate cancer. Patients are indispensable partners in our research and our team hosts and supports the Nottingham Prostate Cancer Support Group meetings in the University.

Nigel’s team are also part of a consortium of international researchers, led by Professor Melissa Davis (Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA), who have been recently awarded a prestigious $25 million Cancer Grand Challenge award from Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute to address the challenge of cancer inequities, including prostate cancer. This consortium involves leading international cancer research centres including New York, Johns Hopkins, Emory, Columbia, Glasgow and Pretoria universities, Weill Cornell Medicine, Kings College London, NY Genome Centre, and Moffitt Cancer Centre. Our team in Nottingham will lead the UK prostate cancer efforts. Nigel formally involved me and other early career researchers in this exciting program and this allows me to learn how large consortia work and to network and learn from international researcher leaders. Opportunities such as this are not normally made available to early career researchers, but it is this culture of inclusion and support, and being challenged to step up into more advanced activities, that make the University of Nottingham and our team different and enables us to do world leading research.

Who will this research benefit?

This research, and the wider research conducted at the university, will benefit patients, and the research and clinical stakeholders. This project will generate the pre-clinical science to understand further the biology of prostate cancer that could underpin the development of new treatments in the future.

What is the overall goal of the research?

Our genes are like an instruction manual, telling our cells how to make all the building blocks needed for us to grow and survive. When our cells carry out these instructions, they can add a ‘bookmark’ to some steps, which usually means those steps should be skipped.

Normally, this is useful because it gives our cells a way to control themselves. Our previous research has found that prostate cancer can also take advantage of this bookmarking system (known as RNA methylation) to grow faster. We have found that prostate cancer uses it to bypass tumour suppressor genes, which normally act as a ‘handbrake’ to stop cells growing and spreading out of control.

Over time prostate cancer is able to spread by taking off this genetic ‘handbrake’ that stops cells growing out of control.

This project will now work out how to put the brakes back on to slow or prevent the spread of the disease.

My hope is that it could open new avenues in the future for different treatment options to improve the lives of patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

What would you like to say to those who enabled this funding?

It is a privilege to be awarded with the prestigious fellowship from Prostate Cancer UK to work alongside a global team of researchers and clinicians to better understand prostate cancer and investigate potential new treatment options. I thank Prostate Cancer UK for the opportunity to work with them on this fellowship.

Securing this fellowship would not have been possible without the guidance and support from my mentors and the additional generous support from alumni who have enabled us to advance our research.

Thank you for supporting groundbreaking research at the University of Nottingham.