Funding boost for cancer research

Better drug treatments and diagnoses, and solutions for prostate cancer and multiple myeloma, are among Flinders University research projects funded in this year’s $3 million Beat Cancer round of grants.

The latest Beat Cancer Projects include three-year Principal Research Fellowships to Flinders Associate Professor Luke Selth ($597,196) to investigate therapy resistance in lethal prostate cancer and fellow Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute Professor Michael Sorich ($596,009), who is researching patient-specific treatments by using big data to predict and understand the benefits, harms and prognosis of cancer patients.

With one in two Australians diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85, Cancer council SA chief executive Lincoln Size says more research is vital to improve cancer survival and detection rates for future generations of South Australians.

“Since it started, Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project has funded nearly 250 cancer research initiatives and continues to be the single largest cancer research investment in the state outside of the Federal Government,” Mr Size says.

At Flinders, Dr Craig Wallington-Beddoe will receive a one-year $100,000 Beat Cancer Research Project Award to investigate Desmoblein-2 as a superior biomarker and therapeutic target for multiple myeloma. Associate Professor Selth also will receive a Cancer Council SA project award to target microRNA-regulated tumour plasticity to improve prostate cancer outcomes.

Meanwhile, an Early Career Research Fellowship ($240,00) was granted to researcher Dr Madelé van Dyk to evaluate the capacity and benefit of precision medicine strategies to account for inter-patient variability with anti-cancer drugs used for advanced cancers.

Professor Sorich says the benefits of patient-specific cancer treatments is making a difference to survival rates and technology is helping to expand the field.

Cancer researchers Professor Michael Sorich, left, Associate Professor Luke Selth and Dr Madelé van Dyk, from the College of Medicine and Public Health.

“The research will develop online tools that will help patients to work through difficult decisions about how and when to use an anti-cancer medicine for the treatment of cancer,” he says.

“It will do so by utilising innovative methods to comprehensively analyse a very large amount of data that has recently become available from both clinical studies of medicines and routine use of the medicines by patients.

“This analysis will allow high-quality predictions to be made regarding a patient’s specific likelihood of benefits and harms from using an anti-cancer medicine.

Professor Sorich says this personalised information will give patients more confidence to make the most appropriate decision for them specifically regarding their treatment and will be better prepared by having more accurate expectations for their treatment outcomes.

“Additionally, this research will provide insight into the patient and disease characteristics influencing benefit and harms from treatment.

“These insights provide opportunities to better understand why medicines sometimes don’t work well for certain individuals and how this may be overcome.”

In another recent funding announcement, the federal Cancer Australia ‘Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme’ project, was awarded to Flinders chief investigator Professor Paul Ward to reduce lung cancer risk.

His research group will receive more than $550,000 over three years to increase resilience and reduce smoking for lower socio-economic groups.

Established in 2011, Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project is a collaboration between the charitable Cancer Council SA, Flinders University, SAHMRI, UniSA, University of Adelaide and SA Health.

It is the single biggest cancer research investment in the state outside of the Federal Government and capitalises on collaboration to fund $4 of research for every $1 generously donated by the community.

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College of Medicine and Public Health