Funding to accelerate treatments in bowel and prostate cancers

Project leads (L-R) Professor Helen Abud, Dr Mitchell Lawrence, Associate Professor Renea Taylor
Project leads (L-R) Professor Helen Abud, Dr Mitchell Lawrence, Associate Professor Renea Taylor

Three Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) researchers have been awarded Cancer Council Victoria (CCV) Grants-in-Aid to investigate potential new treatments for prostate and bowel cancers.

Professor Helen Abud, Co-Head of Monash BDI’s Development and Stem Cell Program, Dr Mitchell Lawrence, Group Leader in the Prostate Cancer Research Program, and Associate Professor Renea Taylor, Co-Head of Monash BDI’s Cancer Program, will lead the three projects that have secured $900,000 between them over three years of CCV funding.

CCV’s Grants-in-Aid program funds high-quality research projects into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Thirteen cutting-edge cancer research projects were awarded a $3.3 million lifeline from Cancer Council Victoria in February.

“Investing in high-quality research is essential to make sure Melbourne research institutions retain the best and brightest researchers. It supports our mission to improve cancer outcomes and save lives,” Cancer Council Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Todd Harper AM, said.

Offering his congratulations, Monash BDI Director Professor John Carroll spoke of the urgent need to develop new therapeutic strategies to combat these cancers.

“Congratulations to Associate Professor Taylor and Dr Lawrence whose research will tackle prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers in Victoria, and to Professor Abud, who will focus on bowel cancer, the second biggest cancer killer,” Professor Carroll said.

“We are grateful that Cancer Council Victoria is funding this vital research and continuing to support our talented researchers with their discoveries,” he said.

Read on for more details on the three Monash BDI projects that received CCV Grants-in-Aid funding.

Uncovering novel mechanisms of treatment resistance in lethal bowel cancers

Research team: Professor Helen Abud (CIA), Dr Rebekah Engel, Professor Paul McMurrick, Associate Professor Ralf Schittenhelm, Dr Caroline Lum, Dr Stuart Archer, from Monash University and Cabrini Health

Bowel cancer is common in Australia, and the second biggest cancer killer. Patients diagnosed with metastatic disease, which is when the cancer spreads to another part of the body, have the worst prognosis, with a five-year survival rate of just 13%.

Using the latest technologies, this study will build a comprehensive profile of advanced bowel cancer and the dynamic changes that occur during treatment. Using patient-derived ‘mini tumour’ models, the research team will measure protein modifications prior to and following chemotherapy. The goal of this project is to discover new biomarkers of treatment resistance and identify new potential druggable targets for patients who fail standard therapy.

Using BAT to aBATe lethal prostate cancer

Research team: Dr Mitchell Lawrence (CIA), Professor Mark Frydenberg, Dr Susanne Ramm, Professor Anthony Joshua

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Victoria, causing approximately 820 deaths each year. If prostate cancer spreads to other parts of the body, the mainstay of treatment is to block the actions of hormones.

In recent years, increasingly potent drugs have been used to block hormone activity in prostate cancer. Unfortunately, prostate cancer cells develop drug resistance over time and blocking hormone action causes mounting side-effects that decrease patients’ quality of life, therefore it is imperative that new treatments that maximise quality of life are identified.

Bipolar androgen therapy (BAT) is undergoing international clinical trials as a potential new treatment for advanced prostate cancer. However, some tumours are more responsive to BAT than others. This study hypothesises that the pathology of prostate cancer can predict whether tumours will be sensitive to BAT. The goal is to test this concept by using samples of prostate cancer tissue donated by patients and determine whether the appearance of tumours can discriminate which patients should receive BAT.

Deconvoluting the complexity of lipid metabolism for prostate cancer therapy

Research team: Associate Professor Renea Taylor, Professor Matthew Watt, Associate Professor David Pook

Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in men, accounting for 13% of cancer-related deaths in Australian men. Currently, there is no cure for advanced stage prostate cancer. The major clinical challenges are to delay progression to this lethal stage of cancer and improve the efficacy of existing therapies or design new strategies for intervention.

The overall goal of this project is to identify metabolic vulnerabilities and alterations in cancer metabolism that will lead to new prostate cancer therapies. There are many preclinical and clinical studies implementing therapeutic strategies to metabolic pathways for cancer treatment, but very few for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is dependent on lipid metabolism, providing a strong rationale for the development of treatments targeting this metabolic substrate.

Read the Cancer Council Victoria full press release here.

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute(BDI)at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning seven discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection, Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

About Cancer Council Victoria

Cancer Council Victoria is a non-profit cancer organisation dedicated to world-leading cancer research, prevention, and support since our establishment in 1936. Our mission is to prevent cancer, empower people and save lives.

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Media Contacts:

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Ryan Fritz, or 0413 728 626