Cancer research projects at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at UQ are beneficiaries in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council funding.

Building on the Institute’s technological strengths in bio-platform and device development, three of the latest NHMRC Projects to receive funding at AIBN will investigate various forms of cancer treatment and pain relief.

Dr Barbara Rolfe will lead a project to study a novel therapeutic strategy for metastatic melanoma, which is an advanced form of skin cancer that has spread to other sites.

“We will study how an immune protein, C3a, regulates melanoma metastasis, and whether secondary tumour growth can be reduced by application of a C3aR inhibiting drug,” Dr Rolfe said.

“We have seen dramatic reductions in the size of primary tumours with this treatment in the laboratory, and will now look into whether it can also reduce the spread of the metastasis,” she said

“However, the problem with tumours is that it is usually difficult to kill all the tumour cells with a single drug, so if we are able to advance this treatment, it would most likely need to be used in conjunction with other therapeutics to eliminate cancerous cells.”

Eliminating side-effects of chemotherapy agent Docetaxel in prostate cancer treatment is the objective of Dr Kristofer Thurecht'st work with fellow AIBN researcher Associate Professor Stephen Mahler.

Dr Thurecht, who shares a joint appointment with the UQ Centre for Advanced Imaging, said prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men over the age of 50, and despite advances is the second most common cause of cancer death.

“Chemotherapy drugs are extremely potent, and are effective at killing cancerous cells,” Dr Thurecht said.

“Unfortunately, they often also lead to significant side-effects that cause unnecessary pain and suffering for patients.

“We’re developing a targeted approach that uses nanomedicine to increase the delivery of the therapeutic to the tumour site, and reduce the amount lost to other sites.”

In further research, Professor Andrew Whittaker will be involved in a study led by UQ’s Professor Maree Smith, which will investigate relief strategies using polymer microparticles for patients suffering from advanced cancer.

“Between 10-30 per cent of patients with advanced cancer continue to experience pain following the administration of drugs such as morphine,” Professor Whittaker said.

“Drugs delivered to the spine are shown to be more effective in reducing pain, however, they require a catheter to be inserted, which results in complications for around a quarter of patients,” he said.

“We are looking to develop polymer microparticles that can be injected into spinal fluid, and deliver a prolonged-release of analgesic drugs with the objective of reduced complications and longer periods of pain relief.”

Media: Darius Koreis, d.koreis@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 3962, +61 427 148 187.

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