Novel prostate cancer study attracts US funding

Monash BDI’s Associate Professor Renea Taylor and Professor Roger Daly.
Monash BDI’s Associate Professor Renea Taylor and Professor Roger Daly.

A study into prostate cancer by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) scientists has been recognised with a AUD$1.43 million United States Department of Defense (DOD) Ideas Development Award.

The DOD award, which spans three years, was awarded to Professor Roger Daly as Principal Investigator for research that takes an innovative approach to prostate cancer, a major cause of cancer-related death.

The Monash BDI’s Associate Professor Renea Taylor, and Professor Lisa Horvath from the Garvan Institute and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital in Sydney, are Co-Principal Investigators.

The Ideas Development Award will fund a study that addresses a novel aspect of prostate cancer biology: the tumour microenvironment.

“The study doesn’t just focus on cancer cells, it focuses on the communication between cancer cells and other cells in their immediate environment called cancer fibroblasts,” Professor Daly said.

“It moves away from the traditional focus on the cancer cell and is looking at a much more holistic view of the cancer environment,” he said.

The study will exploit a powerful, recently developed methodology based around mass spectrometry termed Cell Type–specific labelling using Amino acid Precursors (CTAP), which will enable the scientists to make a detailed transcript of the ‘conversation’ between the two types of cells in an unprecedented level of detail.

“It’s been known for a while that this communication is very important to both cancer development and progression, but there hasn’t been a method to listen to it at this level of detail before,” Professor Daly said.

The new approach will allow the scientists to identify novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets.

“Treatment options for prostate cancer are still relatively limited and new therapies needed. Importantly, the approach could help distinguish between patients who have potentially lethal cancer and those who don’t, possibly avoiding the need for aggressive treatment including surgery and sparing patients side effects such as impotence and incontinence,” Associate Professor Taylor, an expert in prostate cancer research, said.

The study also benefits from access to “unique and powerful” patient tissue banks through the collaboration with Professor Horvath in Sydney.

“It was a relief to gain the award because we have great confidence in this project and have been trying to get it properly funded for the past two years,” Professor Daly said.

“This award highlights the benefits of looking internationally for funding opportunities to diversify our funding streams beyond what we’ve done previously, where we’ve tended to go for NHMRC and ARC grants,” he said.

The research, funded to potentially help US servicemen with prostate cancer, could also pave the way for the approach to be used in other cancers such as breast cancer.

The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702-5014 is the awarding and administering acquisition office. This work was supported by the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, through the Prostate Cancer Research Program under Award No. PC180094. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity. In conducting research using animals, the investigator(s) adheres to the laws of the United States and regulations of the Department of Agriculture. In the conduct of research utilizing recombinant DNA, the investigator adhered to NIH Guidelines for research involving recombinant DNA molecules. In the conduct of research involving hazardous organisms or toxins, the investigator adhered to the CDC-NIH Guide for Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories.

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.