Funding boost to find new gene test for high-risk prostate cancers

Associate Professor Renea Taylor.
Associate Professor Renea Taylor.

A genetic test to detect deadly prostate cancers could be one step closer today, following a $500,000 grant for new research funded by Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA).

The research will led by Monash University’s Associate Professor Renea Taylor in a collaboration between the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and kConFab, at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

The project grant to help identify new genetic drivers of prostate cancer was announced by PCFA on Wednesday 25 September.

PCFA’s CEO, Professor Jeff Dunn AO, said the grant was one of three awarded for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, with a combined value of over $1 million.

“This is a world-leading project that could help us find better ways of detecting and treating deadly forms of prostate cancer. Our ultimate goal is to deliver a paradigm shift in genetic testing for prostate cancer patients by identifying new gene mutations that are clinically significant in life or death diagnoses,” Professor Dunn said.

“Using the unique kConFab research resource, it will help us to better understand the implications of DNA mutations in prostate cancer, building on international evidence regarding ‘germline’ genetic testing – on normal cells in the blood – among men with metastatic prostate cancer,” he said.

“Recent advancements in treatment mean that germline testing in metastatic disease can be used to inform treatment pathways and options to improve outcomes for men who are living with the disease, as well as providing greater awareness for their family members about their own cancer risks.”

“Mortality rates are much higher for men who have metastatic disease with these mutations, and they are less likely to respond to standard hormonal treatments and chemotherapy, but may respond well to newer targeted cancer drugs.”

Associate Professor Taylor said treatment for prostate cancer needed to be individualised.

“We need to stop treating all prostate cancers in the same way – the broad strategy is only effective for a small subset of patients.

“With the support of this grant from PCFA, our aim is to develop a rapid and reliable method of identifying the clinically-relevant germline at prostate cancer diagnosis. This will improve accuracy of risk estimation and better inform clinicians on the best treatment pathway for the specific patient,” Associate Professor Taylor said.

Emerging evidence has found that knowing the germline genetic status of each prostate cancer patient before deciding on chemotherapy or other treatment pathways is important.

“If you happen to be one of the nine per cent of men with a germline mutation, then this work will be key to determining each man’s prognosis and treatment, as well as providing an insight into the risks faced by their genetic relatives,” Professor Dunn said.

“Lab-based research like this into the role of mutations in prostate cancer has great potential to change the lives of patients and their families.”

Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of prostate cancer internationally, with one in every seven Australian men likely to be diagnosed during their lifetime.

“While survival rates for prostate cancer are high, with over 95 per cent of men likely to survive at least five years, we must keep up the pace of work to find curative treatments, especially for advanced disease in the bone,” Professor Dunn said.

“There can be no doubt that this research will build on previous discoveries to help us save lives by stopping cancer from spreading. Research is key to prostate cancer survival and we are proud to support Associate Professor Taylor in her quest to help us find a cure in our lifetime. This is Australian research excellence at its finest,” he said.

This article is based on a media release originally published by PCFA.

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.