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New blood cancer centre to improve patient outcomes

blood cancer, cancer research, donate to cancer,Alfred Health and Monash University are set to establish Australia’s first dedicated blood cancer research centre, thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

The ACRF Blood Cancer Therapeutics Centre, based at The Alfred, will be home to the latest technology available in blood cancer research and will enable researchers to dramatically improve outcomes for patients with blood cancer.

Each year, 11,500 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Sadly, these debilitating diseases – which account for one in 10 cancers diagnosed nationally – claim 4000 lives every year.

Dr Andrew Wei, haematologist at The Alfred and Monash University, said the new centre will enable researchers to find out more about these cancers – including why some treatments work for some people and others don’t – and develop new ways to treat them.

“Many of our patients with various forms of blood cancer have had great success in clinical trials, which use new and unique drug combinations,” Dr Wei said.

“Utilising the most up to date technology available, this new centre will enable us to discover more effective therapies, track patient treatment responses up to 1000 times more closely, and improve therapies to get better outcomes overall for patients.

“Blood cancers are relatively neglected when it comes to research. Thanks to this grant, Monash University and The Alfred will be at the forefront of blood cancer research – it is the only way we can improve outcomes for people diagnosed with blood cancer.”

Mary McKenzie is one such patient who owes her life to the clinical trials that will now be available to more people through the new centre. Five years ago Mary was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and after several treatments failed, took part in a drug trial at the Alfred.

“My chances of survival were really low, but here I am now five years later and I’m better than I’ve been in years. The trial saved me,” she said.

“Having the opportunity to go on the trial gave me hope there was still something they could do. This opportunity should be available to everybody.”

The flagship centre will collect samples from across the country. It is one of only four projects nationally to receive an ACRF grant this year.

“This project encompasses a virtuous cycle of drug discovery, validation, personalised molecular monitoring and improvement of new treatment combinations. It is something ACRF feels has the potential to become a flagship success,” said Australian Cancer Research Foundation CEO Professor Ian Brown.

World first brain cancer trial raises hopes for patients and families.

59910457_m1320934-pancreatic_cancer_-300x168A world-first trial will test an experimental brain cancer treatment which targets the surface of tumour cells expressing a cancer protein called EphA3.

The drug has already shown successful results in phase I clinical trials for leukaemia patients, and cancer scientists are now keen to test its effectiveness on solid tumours.

This world-first clinical trial on patients suffering from recurrent Glioblastoma (GBM) resulted from major discoveries by a team of scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) and Monash University.

Dr Bryan Day and Dr Brett Stringer, who led the research at QIMR Berghofer, said the study builds on work carried out by the collaborative research team for over more than a decade.

“The protein – EphA3 – was discovered by QIMR Berghofer scientist Professor Andrew Boyd in 1992,” said Dr Day.

Dr Stringer said the upcoming GBM trial would be the first test of the drug against solid tumours, as opposed to blood cancers.

“Unfortunately most new drugs tested for GBM have returned disappointing results and patients have very few treatment options,” he said.

“Once we begin recruiting, this study will have an immediate impact by giving patients access to an innovative treatment which has shown great potential in laboratory testing.”

GBM is the most common primary adult brain cancer and is almost always fatal, killing about 1,000 Australians every year.

Dr Day and Dr Stringer said this trial gives researchers an excellent start to developing a much-needed treatment for patients with aggressive GBM.

“The study will determine how patients tolerate the drug and how their tumours respond,” they said.

“There is also a very important imaging component with brain scans to be performed to detect the borders of the tumours and determine how much of the drug crosses from the blood into the brain to reach the tumour.”

New method of treating solid tumours discovered from existing research

Prof Scott accepting ACRF grant 2011 - 1 A team of international scientists from ACRF-funded research institutes Monash University and Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research have uncovered that an antibody against the protein EphA3, could potentially be applied to treat a wide range of different cancers.

The protein EphA3 was discovered in 1992 by Professor Andrew Boyd for its role in promoting leukaemia cancer cells and an anti-body is now in clinical trials to treat this mutation in leukaemias.

Further discoveries showed aggressive brain tumours could also be targeted by this therapy, which you can read about here. EphA3 is present in normal organs only during embryonic development but is released in blood cancers and solid tumours, fuelling cancer growth and providing a target for anti-bodies.

The research team led jointly by the late Professor Martin Lackmann, from the School of Biomedical Studies at Monash; and Professor Andrew Scott, from Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research used laboratory models of prostate cancer to mimic disease progression in humans.

EphA3 was found in stromal cells and blood vessels surrounding the tumour and they observed that treatment with an antibody against EhpA3 (chIIIA4) significantly slowed tumour growth. The antibody damaged tumour blood vessels and disrupted the stromal micro-environment, and cancer cells died because their ‘life-support’ was restricted.

Professor Scott said, “in addition, we screened various tumours from patient biopsies – sarcomas, melanomas as well as prostate, colon, breast, brain and lung cancers – and confirmed EphA3 expression on stromal cells and newly forming blood vessels.”

“Our research findings indicate that the tumour micro-environment is important, and monoclonal antibodies against EphA3 are one way to target and kill a variety of solid tumours as well as blood cancer.”

[Pictured above: Professor Andrew Scott from Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research receiving a recent ACRF grant of $2 million.][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

New therapy in trial minimises side effects for leukaemia patients

Australian researchers are trialing a drug which could bring new hope to people fighting adult leukaemia.

This drug, known as KB004, targets a protein which is only found in cancerous stem cells. It is undetectable on normal cells, so when the therapy is administered, it targets only cancerous cells, minimising side effects.

A team of Australian collaborators from ACRF-funded research institutes, including Dr. Martin Lackmann of Monash University, Melbourne; Dr. Andrew Boyd of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, and Dr. Andrew Scott of Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Melbourne, realised the potential of this protein – called EphA3 – as a drug target some years ago and successfully tested an antibody in their laboratories.

The drug KB004 has since been developed from this antibody, and clinical trials have commenced.

Continue reading “New therapy in trial minimises side effects for leukaemia patients”

Cells involved in aggressive prostate cancer growth to be targeted in the disease’s early stages

A new sub-group of cells that influences prostate cancer recurrence has been identified by researchers at Monash University.

The previously unidentified cells are present in the disease’s early stages, opening up new doors to develop a therapy which targets these cells and prevents the disease from progressing to an aggressive stage.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, claiming more than 3000 Australian lives and affecting up to 20,000 annually.

For advanced cases, the best available treatment involves drugs that deprive the tumour of the male hormones which cause it to grow (androgen-deprivation therapy) . In many cases, the tumour can become resistant to this treatment leaving the patient with both debilitating side-effects and an aggressive new form of the prostate cancer.

The new sub-group of cells identified by Monash researchers is involved in this very treatment resistance. Continue reading “Cells involved in aggressive prostate cancer growth to be targeted in the disease’s early stages”