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On Thursday 4 May, the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) hosted a special information day for patients with prostate cancer participating in the WINGMEN clinical trial.

Selena Kim, Valentine Macaulay and Martin Pirkl looking at the research poster for the patients
From L-R: Selena Kim, Valentine Macaulay and Martin Pirkl

The WINGMEN trial aims to understand how a hormone-like protein called insulin-like growth factor (IGF) helps prostate cancers grow and become aggressive. IGF is required for normal development, and also helps cancers grow and spread. Men with high blood IGF are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer, and tall men are more likely to get aggressive prostate cancer. The men with prostate cancer participating on the WINGMEN trial have been offered an operation to remove the prostate. Most men have to wait four to five weeks between a decision to have prostate removal surgery, and actually having the operation. In this four to five week window, the participants were treated with a new IGF-blocker drug called xentuzumab. 

Between March 2022 and March 2023, Dr Valentine Macaulay (Emeritus Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology) and Martin Pirkl (Research Coordinator) from NDS recruited 27 men with localised prostate cancer to the WINGMEN trial. The recruits and their families have been very interested in what the scientists will do with their samples and the information day was an opportunity to explain the research and thank all those involved.

Held in the Old Road Campus Research Building (ORCRB) on the Churchill Hospital site, the day featured a mixture of short talks given by:

  • Mr Alastair Lamb to explain robotic prostate surgery and his current research; 
  • Associate Professor Clare Verrill who explained what pathology is and how she is introducing digital pathology; 
  • Dr Valentine Macaulay to describe the research being carried out on the patients’ blood and tissues, and;
  • Dr Hayley Luxton, who is the Senior Research Impact and Intelligence Manager at Prostate Cancer UK - the charity funding the trial.

After lunch, the attendees moved from the seminar room to the ORCRB atrium where Dr Macaulay’s lab members demonstrated how they culture cancer cells, pipette liquids and analyse data.

Throughout the day, the patients and their families had very insightful comments, questions and suggestions. The team also showed research posters from the groups of Mr Lamb, Dr Macaulay, Professor Ian Mills and Associate Professor Richard Bryant. This session was open to staff and students of ORCRB and was also an opportunity to showcase prostate cancer research in NDS. 

Dr Macaulay said: ‘I’ve never met a more engaged group of trial patients. It’s humbling to see how much time and effort our WINGMEN were prepared to give. Despite the inconvenience, many said they’d really appreciated the support and camaraderie they got from being on the trial. Now they’ve done their part it’s up to us to analyse their samples so we can understand systemic, tumour and stromal effects of IGF blockade. The long-term goal is to develop new approaches to risk reduction.’

From L-R: Selena Kim, Jack Mills, Alessandro Barberis, and Cameron Lang.

Dr Macaulay’s group from L-R: Selena Kim, Jack Mills, Alessandro Barberis and Cameron Lang.