Keele researcher working with national charity to improve cancer detection procedures

A Keele University scientist has received a prestigious award from a national charity to improve methods of detecting prostate cancer earlier, which will improve outcomes for patients. 

Dr Charlene Greenwood has been awarded an Early Detection Primer Award from Cancer Research UK, to lead a multi-disciplinary team investigating whether changes to tissue physicochemistry can be an early indicator of prostate cancer. 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with the number of cases expected to increase due to an ageing population. However, current methods used to diagnose this disease  can often produce conflicting results, due to limitations in the accuracy of testing methods. 

Recent studies have suggested X-ray scattering measurements – which provide information on the composition of a material – are different between normal healthy tissue and cancerous tissue, and in specific cases such as breast cancer, may even be different between high and low risk cancers. This study aims to evaluate how X-ray scattering patterns change in prostate cancer tissue, across a range of tissue grades, which will help clinicians to better understand the chemical changes occurring in the tissue due to the presence of cancer. It is hoped this will provide an earlier indication of prostate cancer and has the potential to prove invaluable in equivocal cases.   

Dr Greenwood said: “Unfortunately, there are limitations in the accuracy of tests currently available to diagnose prostate cancer, and in some cases the tests provide conflicting information. Consequently, it is not always clear if, or how, we should treat men, or whether we should monitor with blood tests and high-quality image scans using MRI. Any method of improving our ability to detect prostate cancer early is an extremely important area of research.  

“It’s crucial to have a multidisciplinary team when considering novel methods for early cancer detection. This project, for example, consists of biomaterial scientists, engineers and clinicians, including Dr Mark Kitchen, a Academic Clinical Lecturer in Urology at Keele, who will not only provide a new insight into prostate cancer tissue physicochemistry, but also how the results and technology could be applied in a clinical setting in the future. 

“It’s sometimes too easy as a researcher to focus on the fundamental science in order to provide a new insight into cancer progression, but not fully consider whether your findings can be realistically applied in a clinical setting. This is why it is so important to have input from clinicians, who not only provide a wealth of clinical knowledge, but can also provide insight into the clinical relevance of your intended research.”