Women with advanced breast cancer are the targets of a multi-million dollar grant awarded to UQ to develop a new and more accurate technique of determining whether or not cancer has spread through the body.
The project is headed by Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology’s (AIBN) Professor Matt Trau.
The $5 million dollar project funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) combines the latest developments in molecular genetics and nanotechnology to create and clinically test novel diagnostic technologies that will dramatically impact on early detection, prediction and treatment of advanced breast cancer.
Professor Trau said that one of the greatest fears for women treated for breast cancer was that the cancer would return and spread to other parts of their bodies.
“Rather than waiting for a lump or other symptoms to return, this team hopes to develop a blood test that would tell patients early if the cancer has returned, so they can receive treatment quickly and with a greater likelihood of success,” he said.
“Identification and treatment of women with early stage breast cancer, who are at risk of developing advanced breast cancer, remains a significant dilemma in breast cancer management.
“Our program aims to address this issue, because currently once a woman has advanced breast cancer, the prognosis is poor.”
Professor Trau said the unique team of outstanding Australian researchers included the nation’s leading epigeneticist Associate Professor Susan Clark from The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and breast cancer surgeon and clinical trials expert Professor John Forbes from The University of Newcastle.
Other investigators include Dr Melissa Brown (UQ); Associate Professor Glenn Francis, Princess Alexandra Hospital; Associate Professor Alexander Dobrovic, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Peter Mac); and Professor Rodney Scott, The University of Newcastle.
“The priorities of this research include discovering novel biomarkers which are predictors of early and advanced breast cancer and developing a diagnostic technology that will allow early detection and diagnosis of advanced breast cancer in the clinic,” he said.
UQ researchers are also involved in the only other $5 million grant to be awarded by the NBCF, which seeks to take new approaches to treating women for whom available therapies offer little hope, and women who develop treatment resistance.
Professor Mark Ragan and Professor George Muscat from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at UQ will join researchers from around the nation in the project, which will study nuclear receptors in the hope of providing targets for prevention, new treatments and alternative uses of existing breast cancer treatments.
Nuclear receptors (NR) are proteins found inside cells, which receive information from molecules and then alter gene expression accordingly.
The team also includes researchers from the Westmead Millennium Institute, University of Adelaide, WA Institute for Medical Research, Prince Henry’s Institute of Research (Vic) and Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (Vic).
The team, lead by Associate Professor Christine Clarke from the Westmead Millennium Institute, will identify NR networks active in breast cancer. Targeting NR pathways is a proven therapeutic strategy in other diseases, and provides promising new avenues in breast cancer diagnosis and management
National Breast Cancer Foundation CEO Ms Sue Murray said this was the first time this level of funding had been committed to breast cancer research.
“If we want to speed up our efforts to answer the big questions in breast cancer then the NBCF should be funding larger-scale, long-term projects,” she said.
Monday October 22 is Pink Ribbon Day – for more information on how you can help, go to www.pinkribbon.org.au.
Media: Contact Professor Matt Trau at the AIBN on 07 3346 4173 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or Professor Mark Ragan, telephone 07 3346 2616, email is email@example.com or Bronwyn Adams at the IMB telephone 07 3346 2134