Combining International Collaboration and New Technologies to Prevent Prostate Cancer

Prof Ruth Travis is a molecular epidemiologist at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, based at the Nuffield Department of Population Health. Her prior training was in Biological Anthropology and Epidemiology in Cambridge and Oxford. Ruth’s research is ultimately aiming to inform strategies for prostate cancer prevention, by combining the resources of established large cohort studies and international consortia with study designs that take advantage of new technology, both in terms of ‘omics’ and electronic data linkage.

The team around Ruth is investigating a broad panel of potential risk factors, including lifestyle, dietary and biological characteristics, in large populations of men who do and do not go on to develop prostate cancer.  They are particularly interested in hormones and metabolic factors, and their relationships with prostate cancer risk and with modifiable lifestyle and dietary factors. With large study populations and detailed information on prostate cancer tumour characteristics, the focus lays particularly on high risk prostate cancer subtypes.

Ruth is trying to understand what influences risk for developing aggressive prostate cancer, with the ultimate aim of providing population wide guidance on how to best avoid a cancer diagnosis. To date, her team have identified mostly non-modifiable factors are most significant in determining risk of developing cancer (e.g. age, family history and inherited genetic variation). However recent work has indicated that ‘modifiable’ environmental, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors do play a role (including serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1). Ruth’s research is following-up on this lead with comprehensive studies of this metabolic pathway, but also on identifying any other potentially modifiable risk factors.

In Oxford Ruth collaborates with Prof Naomi Allen (Nuffield Department of Population Health, UK Biobank, Prof Freddie Hamdy and Prof Clare Verrill (Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences). Ruth and her team are leading on the prostate cancer research for a large European cohort study EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) including the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, and EHNBPCCG (Endogenous Hormones, Nutritional Biomarkers and Prostate Cancer Collaborative Group). They are also part of several prostate cancer genetics consortia (i.e. PRACTICAL), and collaborate closely with other members, including Dr Rosalind Eeles (ICR, UK) and Prof Chris Haiman (USC, USA).

Ruth’s research is supported CRUK, and the World Cancer Research Fund.