Philip Hogg, director of the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at UNSW, has won the 2010 Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation.
The prestigious award, announced in Sydney on August 17, is for research leading to the development of a novel class of anti-cancer drugs. It also recognises Professor Hogg’s work in monitoring real-time cell death during chemotherapy.
“Professor Hogg has been a member of the ACRF Medical Research Advisory Committee since 2003,” said ACRF chairman, Tom Dery.
“It is wonderful to see that his invaluable contributions to fighting cancer continue to be praised by his peers and the wider community.
“The Australian Cancer Research Foundation offers its warmest congratulations to Professor Hogg and the team at the Lowy Centre,” Mr Dery said.
Cutting cancer’s food supply
Cancer cells have voracious appetites.
Just like normal cells, they need nutrients from the body’s bloodstream to grow. As tumours get bigger it is difficult for them to satiate their hunger, but they get around this problem by inducing the formation of new blood vessels.
A new group of drugs already being used in patient trials targets blood vessel formation and starves tumours of the food they require to grow and spread.
“The anti-cancer drugs developed as a result of Professor Hogg’s research have the advantage of being effective against every type of tumour because all solid tumours rely on blood vessels to thrive,” said director of the Australian Museum, Frank Howarth.
“There are also potential applications of this research in treating other diseases where abnormal formation of new blood vessels plays a central role, such as macular degeneration that causes blindness.”
A first-generation molecule which targets the cells that make new blood vessels in tumours is undergoing clinical trials involving 21 adults with solid tumours. There is preliminary evidence that it has inhibited the cancer without causing toxic side-effects.
Cancer Research UK is performing the testing of the molecule, which is the first Australian compound to be trialled by this group. A second-generation compound which targets both the tumour blood vessels and the tumour cells will go into trial on patients with advanced solid tumours at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney later this year.
Professor Hogg and his team are also developing third and fourth-generation compounds that can be taken as a pill. Cystemix Pty Ltd, a company wholly owned by the University of NSW, has been formed to manage the commercial development of the compounds.
The Lowy team has also invented the first effective small molecule non-invasive imaging agent for dying and dead cells that can be used to assess the efficacy, in real time, of chemotherapy.
While chemo is the mainstay of cancer treatment, in many cases patients endure long and traumatic bouts of treatment that prove futile. Knowing in real-time if a drug cocktail is killing the cancer cells should allow for a more precise treatment and better patient outcomes. This breakthrough will have applications beyond cancer treatment, including the treatment of heart disease. Effective treatment of ischaemic heart disease – reduced blood supply to the heart – is hampered by not knowing the position and extent of the damaged heart muscle. Both could be revealed through this imaging agent. The technology was licensed in late 2007 to Covidien Ltd and the market value of a cell death-imaging agent has been estimated at $1.5 billion annually.
The $10,000 Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation is awarded annually to an individual or research team conducting outstanding medical research translation. It is sponsored by Industry & Investment NSW.
According to organisers, the focus of this year’s prize was on projects that demonstrate clinical and translational excellence in the medical research field. A key aim is to highlight and encourage best practice bench to bedside research translation in the Australian health sector.
Read more about Professor Philip Hogg.
Read more about the Lowy Cancer Research Centre.
Photo: Philip Hogg with the Hon Jodi McKay MP, Minister for Science and Medical Research. Courtesy of Australian Museum Eureka Prizes and 247 Studios.
Read about other recent awards: ACRF congratulates Geoff Lindeman & Andrew Roberts of WEHI, both appointed honorary professors by University of Melbourne.