Could a small step for fourteen experts become a giant leap for Men United?

I watched the new Star Wars trailer the other day and it got me thinking that science fiction is getting ever closer to reality. Maybe not Wookies or lightsabers (much to every little boy’s – or even grown man’s – disappointment). But back when Star Wars was first released who could have imagined that today NASA would be getting ready to send people to Mars in the next 15 years or so? Continue reading

Researchers make molehills out of mountains to show their support and raise money for Movember

The amount of prostate cancer research we’ve been able to fund has increased massively over the last few years, thanks in no small part to support from the Movember Foundation. And we’re not the only ones to appreciate this – the researchers we’ve funded have also been incredibly enthusiastic in showing their support by raising funds for the campaign. Here are some highlights from this Movember.

First up are our very own Research team Mo Bros: Dr Iain Frame (Director of Research), Dr Matthew Hobbs (Deputy Director of Research) and Simon Grieveson (Head of Research Funding). Don’t they look dashing – even if they look a bit like the sort of gang you wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley.

The Prostate Cancer UK Research team mo bros: Matthew Hobbs, Iain Frame and Simon Griveson

The Prostate Cancer UK Research team Mo Bros: Matthew Hobbs, Iain Frame and Simon Grieveson

Iain said: “Prostate cancer research has come a long way in the last 10 years, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We need a better way to tell a man’s individual risk of developing prostate cancer. We need a way to tell the difference between aggressive, potentially fatal prostate cancer, and non-aggressive prostate cancer that won’t cause men any problems. And we need better treatments for men with advanced disease. The harsh reality is that we won’t be able to do any of that without more funding for research. So really, the question isn’t: ‘Why am I growing a mo?’ It’s more like: ‘Why wouldn’t I grow one given what can be achieved by doing so?’ Plus, my wife thinks it makes me look even more handsome.”

Meanwhile in Newcastle, Dr Kelly Coffey, one of our first Career Development Fellows, and her lab mates took part in the Newcastle MoRun, where Dr Coffey’s PhD student Mahsa won the ladies’ 5k. As if this wasn’t enough, they also joined in with the larger Northern Institute of Cancer Research (NICR) team in a weekly (and apparently very competitive!) bake sale and their annual Movember quiz night and raffle. The NICR team also celebrated a new arrival this Movember when Dr Anastasia Hepburn gave birth to her second son, James. Never ones to miss an opportunity to involve the whole team in their fundraising (no matter how young), they promptly started a sweepstake to guess baby James’ weight. Overall, this mustachioed team raised a fantastic £750.

Kelly Coffey's team at the mo run

Dr Kelly Coffey’s team at the Newcastle MoRun

Dr Coffey said: “The Newcastle Mo Run was the first run I’ve ever done, and was a huge challenge, but I got there – eventually! And we will all be back next year. Researchers at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research take fundraising activities very seriously. It helps to keep us grounded and to really appreciate how difficult it is to raise money to pay for expensive research endeavours. Considering it took us a month’s worth of activities to raise £750 and my grant for five years was for £688,000 it really makes you appreciate how much time and effort has gone into generating this money. My opinion is that if a charity puts their trust in you, it’s your responsibility to not only ensure that you’re successful, but also to support the charity in return in as many ways as you can.” Well done, and thanks to you all.

In Cardiff, Dr Jason Webber, our newest Career Development Fellow and three year Mo Bro, his mentor Dr Aled Clayton (two year Mo Bro) and his team-mate Dr Joanne Welton (four year Mo Sista) all showed their fuzzy-faced support.

Dr Jason Webber's Cardiff mo team

Dr Jason Webber’s Cardiff mo team

Dr Webber said: “As researchers we are incredibly grateful for the funding that we receive. We are therefore pleased to do what we can to help raise awareness for men’s health and support Movember and Prostate Cancer UK.”

Dr Michael Ladomery at the University of the West of England gave us a stage by stage update on his mo-gress:

Dr Michael Ladomery's Mo-progress

Dr Michael Ladomery’s mo-gress

He said: “I work in prostate cancer research and this sort of initiative is really valuable, so I want to contribute my bit! That’s why I am growing a moustache for the first time in my life. It is unsettling, unhygienic, itchy, and ugly. But all for a good cause!” Dr Ladomery’s experiment with a hairy face earned a very respectable £180 for the campaign. Great work – and thank you!

Finally, the 42-strong team (yes that’s right, 42) at the Belfast end of the Belfast-Manchester Movember Centre of Excellence have really pushed the boat out with their fundraising efforts this year, raising an awe-inspiring £2,640.

Queen's University Belfast's 42-strong team of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas

Mo Bros and Mo Sistas at Queen’s University Belfast

And they weren’t satisfied with the traditional grow a mo and get sponsored approach (although they did that too). They also held a bake-sale at a local business and convinced their local coffee suppliers (Clements and Starbucks) to wear fake moustaches and collect donations. The Mo Sistas donated money to buy and wear fake mos for ‘Fake Moustache Fridays’, one of the professors held a one-man James Joyce showcase (after all, he was a famous Irish Mo Bro) and as if that wasn’t enough, they climbed Everest twice in one night at an indoor climbing fundraiser!

Dr Sharon Eddie Parkinson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast said: “As a Movember Centre of Excellence focused on prostate cancer research, we are all too aware of how prevalent and devastating the disease is. We strive to improve the prognosis for patients by identifying biomarkers for early detection and developing novel personal therapies to better treat the disease once it is diagnosed. However, this work cannot be done without the generous funding from Movember and Prostate Cancer UK, so we are incredibly grateful for all the donations we’ve received.”

And Dr Rich Williams, lecturer in medicinal chemistry added: “The funding provided by Prostate Cancer UK and Movember to our group is allowing us to develop the next generation of anti-prostate cancer therapeutics. In addition, we’re using this funding to further increase our knowledge of how to target the hallmarks of this aggressive disease. As a group we all too aware of the need for Movember to raise funds and put them towards improving the outcome for men suffering from prostate cancer, and are delighted to be able to contribute to the cause.”

It’s still not too late to donate – you can help the CCRCB team crack the £3,000 mark by donating.

Wow. A huge thank you and well done from everyone here for the incredible efforts you’ve all (researchers and readers) put in to making this Movember a big success. Your facial hair makes a difference. It enables us – with continuing support from the Movember Foundation – to fund much needed, life-saving research. So as all the Mo Bros out there thankfully stroke their now fuzz-free faces, we say… roll on next Movember!

Working together to understand why 1 in 4 Black men face prostate cancer

October is Black History Month. This time last year we broke the news that 1 in 4 Black men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. That’s double the risk of all men.

Over the past year we’ve been doing all we can to get this message out there and make sure Black men know their risk. This has included adverts in papers and magazines, such as The Voice and The Nubian Times, as well as a float at the Notting Hill Carnival.

Taking the message to the streets in the Notting Hill Carnival  Soca style

Taking the message to the streets in the Notting Hill Carnival – Soca style

This month we’re talking about the ‘four things every Black man should know about prostate cancer’. This is an article in the official Black History Month guide, sent out alongside The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Voice. These are:

  1. Know your risk
  2. Know the possible symptoms
  3. Know your rights
  4. Know where you can get support

Recently I spoke to Sarah Toule, Service Development Manager at Prostate Cancer UK. Sarah’s role is to reach men at a higher risk of prostate cancer. One of the key areas of her work is reaching Black men.

Sarah Toule, Service Development Manager

Sarah Toule, Service Development Manager

“When I joined Prostate Cancer UK in 2009 it felt like our African Caribbean programme was something in isolation from the Black community, with no real framework. Plus it was just me! Fast forward five years and we’ve not only got a programme of activity, but we have a team, trained nurses and we collaborate with leaders in the Black community.”

We need your help to understand the 1 in 4 stat

“Over the last year, one of our biggest news stories was highlighting the risk of prostate cancer in Black men. In the UK 1 in 4 Black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. This is double the lifetime risk for all men (1 in 8). It’s a stark statistic but it hammers home just how big an issue this is. Awareness of prostate cancer remains low amongst Black men. This must change.”

“One of the hardest things to say to people is that we don’t know why 1 in 4 Black men will get prostate cancer. But we need to understand why this is. We think we can learn so much more through targeted research and gathering more health information from Black men. For example, it’s really important that men’s ethnicity is recorded correctly and consistently in the health system so we can analyse data and learn more about Black men and prostate cancer. To get the message out there we’ve recruited Research Champions. They are ‘super supporters’ who go out into their communities and talk to Black men about their risk and why we need to understand more.

“If you’re a Black man reading this, please know that you can play a key role and take control of your health. Whether it’s deciding to take part in research or ensuring that your ethnicity is recorded correctly when you visit your GP. These are the messages that our research champions are spreading.”

Cultural differences

“I’ve always worked in the Black and Minority Ethnic community, addressing health inequalities. Being from the Seychelles, which is a melting pot of different cultures and identities, I understand the challenges that cultural differences can create. It’s not about race. It’s about different norms and preferences between different communities and different attitudes towards health and healthcare. Many Black men are in an unnecessary situation where they don’t know their risk of prostate cancer. They don’t know their rights to services or they aren’t receiving the services they deserve. Together we’re improving this. And we’re developing strong links thanks to our partnerships in the community to make a real difference. ”

“In early 2014 we launched a pilot grant scheme to fund community activities with one aim – to help raise awareness of prostate cancer amongst Black men. We’ve funded conferences, small research projects, church events and even a comedy show! Being able to meet people and see the benefits is great. It shows the impact we can have. We’ve already heard of men who have visited their GP and been diagnosed with prostate cancer as a result of attending one of the funded events. Getting an early diagnosis significantly increases your chances of a positive outcome, and this really highlights the importance of this work.”

The role of the health professional

“Every activity within our team’s work has one goal – to reach men at a higher risk. One of our team’s most successful projects so far has been taking our Specialist Nurse services into the community. For men, being able to speak to a nurse face-to-face immediately after a talk from one of our volunteers is so useful. It means they can start building relationships with health services. They gain such confidence just from knowing that it’s within their rights to speak to a doctor about their health. Following the success of the pilot we’ve now trained some of our Specialist Nurses to go out into the Black community and support men.”

Planning for the future

“We created a new role this year – African and African Caribbean Project Manager – and we are seeing increasing focus on the Black community across everything that we do at Prostate Cancer UK. Having that designated person allows us to realise our ambitions and deliver our intentions, so who knows where we might be in another six years time!

“We are also partnering with the Be Clear on Cancer campaign to pilot a programme in parts of London, engaging Black men to know more about their risk and speak to their GP if they’re worried. Projects like this are only possible if we, Public Health England, GPs, campaigners, volunteers and leaders in the Black community work together. It’s vital more Black men know about prostate cancer, their risk, and their rights and where they can go for support.”

Getting closer to identifying aggressive disease

I’m still in Baltimore at the Prostate Cancer UK Forum and conversations last night continued over dinner and well into the evening. But I was up with the larks again today, ready for another day full of presentations and discussions on the latest developments in prostate cancer research.

Today, we covered managing disease – from imaging, to diagnosis and from low-risk to high-risk prostate cancer, and how we’re starting to tell the difference between them. Continue reading

Prostate cancer research – it’s not all talk, but it’s a good place to start

A couple of weeks ago, I told you how excited I was about the upcoming Prostate Cancer UK Research Forum. Well, it finally arrived (a shame our luggage didn’t – but that’s another story), so now we’re here in Baltimore, home of the internationally renowned Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, with some of the world’s leading prostate cancer experts. Continue reading

What do you get when put 75 prostate cancer experts in a room together for three days and lock the door? We can’t wait to find out.

Okay, so we don’t actually lock the door. But in two weeks’ time, I’ll be reporting back from the 11th Biennial Prostate Cancer Forum. It’s an event we’ve funded over the past 22 years and it sees some of the world’s top prostate cancer researchers and clinicians pooling their collective expertise to try and beat prostate cancer. Continue reading

A mingling of young minds – meet our early career researchers.

Our early career researchers

Our early career researchers

If you read my last blog post, I talked about how important it is facilitate conversations between bright minds. It could always be the first step to the next breakthrough.

Well in that spirit, and of course in the spirit of Men United, I’m very excited to report that we’ve just held our first ever networking event for all the PhD students and Fellows that we fund and support.

Continue reading