To replace the use of many animals in prostate cancer research and testing, Diliany Oliveira from the University of Portsmouth will be developing a non-animal based screening tool to detect cancer biomarkers.

SUPERVISOR: Dr Mridula Chopra - University of Portsmouth

STUDENT: Miss Diliany Oliveira

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer type in the UK. Cancer cells draw nutrition for their growth by connecting to the patient’s blood supply through the formation of small vessels. Without this linking process, cancer cells cannot grow. Currently, the number of vessels can be assessed to predict the aggressive nature and severity of the cancer. The method to count vessels involves the use of animal-derived biomaterials (antibodies), which are used to stain the patient’s tissue sample in order to visualise vessels. The aim of our research is to find a reliable alternate way of measuring the number of the blood vessels and to eliminate the use of animal products. Our approach is to find specific biological markers using synthetic chemistry, which we can correlate with the aggressive nature and severity of the cancer.

We want to test biological markers using the polymerase chain reaction approach, which is a method that uses the patient’s tissue sample and quantifies the genes found in the sample. We will be able to look at the number of products produced by these genes and correlate findings with the prostate cancer stage. The biological markers may therefore provide us with a better understanding of the cancer biology, and allow us to design new diagnostics and therapeutic strategies for early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The developed assay will be used in our clinical investigations with the introduction of lycopene rich food.

Antibodies are very specific proteins, which are normally produced by a living organism as part of the immune response to a bacterial or to a similar attack. Antibodies have been employed by scientists as specific binding agents. Immunohistochemistry is a technique which uses antibodies to visualise different features or antigens present in human tissue samples. This helps in making the patient’s diagnosis or prognosis. However, these antibodies usually derive from an animal source. Immunohistochemistry is widely used in every pathology and research facility around the UK.

In our research, we aim to eliminate the use of components cultured in animals. We are proposing to examine the expression of genes of angiogenesis using molecular assays, which employ synthetic chemistry, using standard molecules with known sequences. Using molecular assays means that no animals will be used in our research, but still being able to get accurate and reproducible results.