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Monash in world first as cancer charities unite on $2.5million research grant

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20 September 2017

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From left to right: Associate Professor Elgene Lim (Garvan Institute), Dr Renea Taylor (Monash BDI), Professor Alastair Burt (University of Adelaide), Dr Alessandra Muntoni (NBCF), Professor Wayne Tilley (University of Adelaide), Ms Charlotte Webb (Movember), Dr Theresa Hickey (University of Adelaide) and Dr Luke Selth (University of Adelaide)

Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) scientists are part of a team awarded a $2.5 million grant to pursue innovative breast and prostate cancer research, thanks to a groundbreaking collaboration between the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) and the Movember Foundation.

The Breast & Prostate Cancer Linkage Grant, announced yesterday in Adelaide, will fund a multidisciplinary team of scientists to explore a new treatment path for breast and prostate cancers, potentially transforming the lives of patients around the world.

Combined, more than 6000 Australians die of breast and prostate cancers each year, making these the nation’s second biggest cancer killers. The two cancers have much in common – both being driven by hormones; estrogens in breast cancer and androgens in prostate cancer. This trailblazing research project, building on breast and prostate cancer research successes, will find new ways to “reset” or reprogram hormone signalling.  

Professor Wayne Tilley, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories and a leading Australian cancer researcher, will head an outstanding team comprising researchers from the University of Adelaide, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Monash University (led by Professor Gail Risbridger and Dr Renea Taylor). The team also incorporates expert advisory groups of clinicians, researchers and patient advocates from around the world.

Professor Risbridger and Dr Taylor, who are part of Monash BDI’s Cancer Program, are recognised globally as experts in prostate cancer. The long-term researchers have been instrumental in developing one of the largest collections of ‘living’ human prostate cancers in the world – vital to investigating the diverse types of the cancer.

Dr Taylor said treatment of breast and prostate cancers has concentrated on depriving the patients of the hormones involved, resulting in side-effects for patients including early menopause in women and erectile dysfunction in men.

“This revolutionary new approach is about reprogramming the way the sex hormone receptors act in cancer to be more like normal tissue rather than just taking the hormones away,” Dr Taylor said.

“By being smart about the way we target hormones we’re hoping to improve the outcomes of patients and also their quality of life,” she said.

The studies are expected to lead to the identification of effective new therapeutics for breast and prostate cancer, which can then be rapidly moved into clinical practice, she said.

National Breast Cancer Foundation CEO, Professor Sarah Hosking, said the pioneering funding approach was a game-changer for the progression of cancer research in Australia. “This collaborative fund strengthens NBCF’s goal to achieve zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030, and will help us to speed up developments of new treatments for breast cancer,” she said.

Charlotte Webb, Country Director (Australia & NZ) for the Movember Foundation said: “This grant is bringing together the best and brightest cancer researchers in Australia and across the globe, and will be invaluable in our joint efforts to accelerate treatment outcomes for people diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer.” Movember aims to halve prostate cancer deaths by 2030.


About the Movember Foundation:

The Movember Foundation is the only global charity focused solely on men’s health, funding over 1,200 innovative projects across 21 countries. To date, they have raised hundreds of millions for men’s health programs supporting these critical areas: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. Go to Movember.com to donate or participate.

About the National Breast Cancer Foundation:

The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) is the only national body that funds life-changing breast cancer research with money raised entirely by the Australian public. NBCF research has helped develop  better therapies, greater understanding of ways to stop the spread of breast cancer and improved quality of life. Since its establishment in 1994, NBCF has awarded more than $140 million to around 470 Australian- based research projects to improve the health and well-being of those affected by breast cancer.