Prostate Cancer Research Consortium

PCRCHighlightReportThe PCRC was established and developed with significant funding from the Irish Cancer Society and with support from the Dublin Molecular Medicine Centre, now Molecular Medicine Ireland.  The PCRC has attracted further funding from Science Foundation Ireland, British Urological Foundation and the Health Research Board.

The Prostate Cancer Research Consortium (PCRC) is a co-ordinated group of researchers and clinicians from universities and hospitals in Dublin whose aim is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Established in 2004 with funding from the Irish Cancer Society, the PCRC aimed to link “like minded” researchers from different academic institutions and hospitals to maximize research potential in this disease. The federated bioresource of the PCRC has collected tissue, serum/plasma, urine and DNA from 600 patients and these bio-resources fuel the current discovery and validation research programme.


Significant achievements of the Consortium include:

  • The establishment of a prostate cancer biobank, the first biobank in Ireland to be approved and licensed by the Data Protection Commissioners.  Over 550 patients have been recruited to the biobank in the last five years.
  • The publication of over 30 articles in international peer-review journals.
  • Researchers in the Consortium have received 19 awards and have made a number of significant discoveries.  For example, PCRC researchers have identified a new panel of biomarkers which could be used to help diagnose the prostate earlier.
  • The PCRC has been involved in the training of 33 young dedicated prostate cancer researchers and doctors
  • The development and fostering of key international collaborations with prostate cancer groups in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA.


The Consortium includes four clinical sites;  Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, St James’s Hospital, Beaumont Hospital and the Adelaide & Meath incorporating the National Children’s Hospital and four research institutions; Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, University College Dublin;  Institute of Molecular Medicine, Trinity College Dublin; RCSI-Education and Research Centre, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and National Centre for Sensor Research, Dublin City University.


For further information on the Prostate Cancer Research Consortium, please visit the following link;

Overview of the Research Programme undertaken by the PCRC

This research programme aims to :-
1. Establish a prostate cancer tumour bank to support ongoing research and evaluate patient attitudes to tumour banking
2. Apply genomic and proteomic technologies to identify novel biomarkers allowing the early detection and prognosis of prostate cancer cases
3. Correlate these molecular characterisations with disease progression phenotypes
4. Evaluate novel therapies in pre-clinical & potentially Phase I/II studies
It is hoped that this research will provide clinicians with better tools with which to detect the disease and to determine the most effective intervention. The latter stage of the project should unearth new strategies that may lead to new drug therapies.


Programme Details

Objective 1A – Creating a Prostate Cancer Tumour Bank

The consortium has begun collecting blood and urine from patients with early stage, locally advanced & metastatic disease and tissue from patients who are undergoing radical prostatectomy or transurethral resection. Ethical approval has been secured at all four hospitals and a common collection protocol has been agreed. A review panel of three consultant pathologists confirms tumour classification by local pathologists. A technique has been developed to securely separate malignant cells from surrounding benign material.

Objective 1B – Understanding Patient Attitudes to Tumour Banking

A patient survey questionnaire to assess patient attitudes to tumour banking and gene profiling has been prepared and is undergoing ethical review. It is hoped that this survey will help inform the clinical research community about attitudes and extent of participation amongst Irish males.

Objective 2 – Identification of Biomarkers of Disease & Disease Progression

Gene-specific DNA hypermethylation may be a characteristic signature of early stage and more aggressive later stage prostate cancer. Bioinformatic approaches have identified a series of genes that are down regulated in prostate cancer. Novel candidates are being tested by methylation sensitive PCR and by bisulphite sequencing assays using quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase PCR. These evaluations are being conducted in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (US). Surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF) will be applied to the serum and urine of a selected patient cohort with a view to identifying distinctive protein signatures. The resulting signatures will then be tested in the remaining collections as a marker of early disease, disease progression and to assess treatment response in prostate cancer clinical trials.

Objective 3 – Correlation of Molecular Markers with Disease Progression

Given the relatively tight genetic pool of the Irish population, the consortium believes that it can develop a molecular classification of disease stage and progression. Bioinformatic analysis is being undertaken on a number of recently published gene datasets including the Inhibitors of Apoptosis Proteins (IAP’s) gene class. Real time PCR on RNA isolated from primary cultures demonstrates increased IAP expression in the diseased state. The androgen receptor represents an important target in Prostate Cancer. Differences have been observed from in CAG repeat length number in the androgen receptor (AR) gene in matched androgen dependent and independent cell lines. The consortium will next evaluate repeat length number variation in retrospective material from patients who have shown evidence of progression.

Objective 4 – Exploring Novel Therapeutic Strategies

The primary cell lines representing different disease stages isolated by the consortium will be used to test three novel therapeutic approaches.

• RNA Interference for the Inhibition of Specific Gene Products

• Gene Delivery of Specific Genes to Increase Susceptibility to Existing Therapies

• Small molecule agents that Interfere with Cell Death Pathways