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Funding boost for new approaches to cancer treatment

Friday, 22 April 2016


Researchers have been awarded $334,000 in the Cancer Council Western Australia’s 2016 research program to improve the ways we detect and treat cancer.

Exercise medicine

Dr Nicolas Hart from ECU’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute was awarded $34,742 to develop safe and effective supervised exercise programs for prostate cancer patients with secondary tumours in their bones.

Dr Hart’s world-first research is investigating whether exercise targeted directly to tumour sites can slow their growth.

“Currently, in the advanced stage of disease, once cancer has spread to bone it is incurable, with few treatment options available to slow cancer progression and alleviate associated symptoms.”

“We know that exercise is highly beneficial for people suffering from cancer in many different ways, but this will be the first time we have tried to target the exercise directly to the part of the body where tumours are growing in bone,” he said.

“As well as the potential to interfere with tumour growth and spread, it is expected that the targeted exercise will also help alleviate bone pain as well as preserve muscle and bone mass in patients.”

Dr Hart said the funding from the Cancer Council Western Australia was vital to supporting local early career researchers.

Melanoma mission

Dr Elin Gray, from ECU’s Melanoma Research Group, was awarded $199,182 to support her work on the development a blood test for early prediction of the effectiveness of different types of treatments for melanoma patients.

“Despite the significant success of recent melanoma treatments, some therapies are effective in only a proportion of patients – about 15 to 35 per cent – and other treatments only work for a short period due to the development of drug resistance,” she said.

“Currently the only way to determine the effectiveness of a particular form of treatment is to rely on an invasive biopsy, which only provides information about a single tumour at a particular point in time and radiological scans, which lack sensitivity.

“By evaluating the circulating tumour DNA present in patient’s blood we hope to be able to develop a blood test that can help guide treatment options.”

Dr Gray said that identifying which treatment is best suited to each patient allows the personalisation of their therapy which reduces the cost and side effects of treatment and increasing its effectiveness.

Other grants

  • Benedicta Santoso - $3000 – Role of the receptor activator of NFkB on resistance of melanoma cells to treatment with vemurafenib and dabrafenib.
  • Aaron Beasley - $7500 – Markers in single tumour cells within the blood for determining the spread of uveal melanoma.
  • Dr Carlos Aya-Bonilla - $35,000 – Isolation and study of circulating melanoma cells from the blood of patients diagnosed with metastatic melanoma

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