Shining a light on a dark corner of cancer research

23 July, Tim Burton 

Penile cancer (cancer of the penis) is an exceptionally rare and often neglected, but devastating, disease. Due to its rarity, very few treatment options have been devised which means that patients are routinely being let down. Mr Simon Rodney is looking to change that with his TUF-funded research.

What is Simon doing?

Simon’s research aims to determine what genetic and epigenetic changes take place in the development of penile cancer. Specifically, Simon is looking to find out what the early changes are in an individual tumour and how they are responsible for the development of the cancer.

His hope is that, by understanding these changes, scientists can begin to devise new tests that can diagnose the cancer and new treatments which can target its vulnerabilities.

What progress has Simon made?

Here’s what he told us,

This has been very exciting work! It has generated huge amounts of data on penile cancer that simply weren’t there before. Those data are currently being analysed, but the initial results indicate that there are extensive genetic and epigenetic changes in the early stages of the cancer.”

What does this mean?

“The DNA code within each cell provides the blueprint for how a cell should function.  A genetic change is a mutation or change within actual DNA code. An epigenetic change is the change in the machinery which switches different parts of the DNA ‘on’ or ‘off’. Either type of change – whether within the DNA itself or the machinery that controls it – could potentially result in the cell becoming cancerous.

“Our research has also shown that some treatments only target mutations that occur in a small part of the cancer, which could quickly cause the treatment to fail and the cancer to recur. We therefore identified which mutations are present in all regions of a tumour, rather than only in one section of the cancer. This would enable us to devise treatments that target the whole cancer.

What’s next?

“The next step for the research will be to test the hypotheses we’ve already developed. We’ll start this by using a range of targeted and immune treatments in advanced penile cancer patients.”

The work that Simon is doing will provide evidence for the next generation of clinical trials within penile cancer. This means that new treatments can be tested and, as Simon told us:

Only by testing new treatments can the survival of patients be greatly enhanced.”

TUF is committed to funding all areas of urology. With TUF, your money will go to areas of research that are too often overlooked. Donate today to join our fight against all urology diseases.

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