Endocrine Cancers


Research focus

Endocrine Cancer research including male and female hormone dependent cancer

Relevance and importance to UP, South Africa and Africa

The institution is host to a diverse group of clinical and basic scientists working on cancer. UP has strong links and established collaboration with leading international cancer institutes and is currently addressing local community based problems, unique to Africa and South Africa, but with high international scientific impact. Together with the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences the Faculty has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ampath to co-fund the establishment of a Research Chair in Hormone dependent Cancer Genomics. There are several cancer research entities and platforms – looking into male and female cancer, environmental and genetic contributing factors, and cancer prevention – which are already research active which will be pooled to establish this research focus area with potential high impact value.

The potential benefit to science and to society

Specifically, on male cancer: in the Western world, prostate cancer has the highest incidence of all male-associated cancers and the second highest mortality rate. In African countries, including South Africa, the incidence of this type of cancer among non-migrant Africans is uncertain, but a trend towards patients being diagnosed at an earlier age has been observed. It is estimated that among South African men, at least one in every 23 will develop prostate cancer within their lifetime.

Prof Riana Bornman, Senior Research Professor in the School of Health Systems and Public Health at UP's Faculty of Health Sciences, has been involved with prostate cancer research, specifically among African men, for many years and has been collaborating with international leading researchers in this domain.

A collaborative study with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney in Australia, has mapped the entire genome of a prostate cancer tumour for the first time. The team, led by Prof Vanessa Hayes, Head of the Human Comparative and Prostate Cancer Genomics Laboratory at the Garvan Institute, published their findings in the journal Oncotarget in March 2017. The study has provided an entirely new lens through which to view the disease and the results could potentially be used to help characterise an individual's prostate tumour and direct clinical treatment.

The results of this study represent the world's first comprehensive next-generation mapping of an entire prostate cancer genome and the team uncovered ten times more chromosome genomic rearrangements than have ever been detected with previous technology. The study provides proof that next-generation mapping is feasible for cancer studies and has clinical potential for prognosis, diagnosis and therapeutics. It could also eventually help to define African-specific risk areas and the genomic signature of prostate cancer in South African men.

Benefits to investing in this research area

Based on the success of the Southern African Prostate Cancer Study (SAPCS), a University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia, initiative i-DZOMO, a prostate cancer initiative for Africa, has been founded.

The goal of i-DZOMO is to allow partner countries across Africa to join in a network built on the success of the SAPCS thereby permitting easy replication of study protocols and much needed study replication across the continent. i-DZOMO initiated studies will therefore have a direct impact of research credibility and study power that can make a difference, while enhancing collaborative engagement. The founding partner countries include: Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda and South Africa.

i-DZOMO’s International partner provides the African partner countries with access to the latest genomic technologies and high-performance computing infrastructure, as well as extensive genetic and bioinformatics expertise required to maintain the inclusion of Africans into the future of precision medicine for prostate cancer care and treatment. Investment in this niche research area will aid in providing African clinicians and basic scientists with a network to give an African voice and African solution to the significant burden of this devastating disease.



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