Chemist awarded Ideas Grant for new therapeutic approach to prostate cancer


Congratulations to Associate Professor Lisa Martin from the Monash University School of Chemistry on being awarded an Ideas Grant to develop new selective drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer.

Monash University has been awarded more than $44 million in funding for 49 research projects in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grants - the most of any Australian university.

Federal Health Minister The Honorable Greg Hunt announced the funding on Tuesday 15 December 2020, for projects covering four faculties: Science, Engineering, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

Associate Professor Martin was awarded $519,427 for her project titled ‘Engineering CYP17A1 inhibitors for castrate-resistant prostate cancer’.

As prostate cancer progresses it becomes resistant to first line treatments and the current second line treatments have untoward side effects. Associate Professor Martin’s project will provide proof of principal for new selective drugs to be developed.

The researchers are proposing an innovative strategy to develop new selective drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer.

This new therapeutic approach will identify new compounds for patients specifically with castrate sensitive and resistant prostate cancer.

In Australia about 10% of men will develop prostate cancers. The first line of hormonal treatment targets the gonadotrophin releasing-hormone pathway leading to reduced synthesis of androgens by the testis and hence a reduction in cancer size and growth. Unfortunately, about 16% of prostate cancers become refractory to this

treatment or castration by developing the ability to make their own androgens. For this, they express androgen- producing enzymes, one of the most important of which is CYP17A1 (17alpha-hydroxylase, 17,20 lyase).

Other Monash projects that received funding include:

Soft wearable patches for stillbirth prevention, $1M: Professor Wenlong Cheng from the Faculty of Engineering leads a project to develop next-generation soft wearable patches that use artificial intelligence (AI) to help prevent stillbirths.

New therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, $1.1M: Dr Karen Gregory leads a project in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences that aims to address neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's, which are among the leading causes of death and disease burden in Australia.

Developing new therapies for autoimmune disease, $1.3M: Dr Ruby Law from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute will lead a project researching new immunotherapeutics.

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