Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Developing a brand-new treatment for advanced prostate cancer

Dr Claire Fletcher
Project period
Aug 2024 - Aug 2026
Research Institute
Imperial College London
Cancer types
Prostate cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Claire Fletcher and her team are developing an entirely new cancer treatment that they hope could one day be used to help patients with advanced prostate cancer, who currently have limited treatment options.   

Hope for the future

Prostate cancer is often successfully treated using a combination of different therapies including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. But unfortunately, it also sometimes develops resistance to treatment, or returns after the treatment has finished. We urgently need more treatments to tackle this type of advanced prostate cancer.

Dr Fletcher and her team have developed an innovative new treatment approach that is radically different to other cancer treatments. It aims to use a tiny piece of DNA-like material to actively damage prostate cancer cells, making it harder for them to survive. The next step is to test in the lab just how effective and safe this treatment is, and Curestarter funding is helping the team do this. During this project the team will gather essential evidence that they hope will help to progress this exciting new treatment towards first clinical trials in patients.


Claire Fletcher and her team enjoying a meal out together at Christmas

Meet the scientist

Claire grew up in the Peak District and now lives in London with my son, Kit. When not in the lab, she loves indoor cycling, building increasingly elaborate Lego models with Kit, travelling to new places and cuddles with the family golden retriever, Simba! Her team enjoy socialising as shown at this Christmas meal. 

The science

DNA damage can be lethal for a cell. Healthy cells have developed important protective mechanisms to patch up any damage as it occurs, and keep their DNA in good working condition. But cancer cells are generally not as good as healthy cells at repairing their DNA. This is an important vulnerability, an ‘Achilles heel’, that other cancer drugs like chemotherapy also try to exploit.


But Dr Fletcher’s new idea is very different to chemotherapy, which uses chemical drugs to inflict damage on cancer cells, and unfortunately, also some healthy cells too. Instead, the team have developed two versions of a new treatment that is based on a tiny piece of genetic material, called microRNA-346. They have already found that microRNA-346 can cause very high levels of DNA damage to prostate cancer cells, but not to healthy prostate cells. They will now use laboratory-grown cells and also tumour tissue donated by patients to examine in detail just how effectively these new treatments can cause DNA damage, and slow cancer growth. They will test the safety and effectiveness of these treatments in mice, and study whether microRNA-346-treatments could work alongside other drugs to boost their ability to target prostate cancer. The team also hope to identify features that could predict which patients will be most likely to benefit from this new treatment.


Ultimately, this work will help the team to understand whether microRNA-36 treatments could potentially be used as an effective new treatment for advanced prostate cancer, and will gather vital information that is needed before the treatment can be tested in humans.

Head shot of Claire Fletcher wearing a sparkly grey jumper
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