Cancer researchers trial new treatments

Friday, 13 February 2009

Four University of Adelaide researchers have been awarded more than $338,000 by Cancer Council SA to help find causes and cures for cancer-related diseases.

The grants are part of a total Cancer Council funding pool of $2.9 million to South Australian researchers for projects over the next two years.

Professor David Callen, Head of the Breast Cancer Genetics Group in the School of Medicine, will use his $101,500 grant to research new ways of selectively reverting cancer cells to a normal state.

"A protein called p53 is very important in the prevention of a variety of cancers, with about half of all tumours inactivating the function of this protein, Professor Callen says. "We have discovered a novel protein that interacts with p53 and has the potential to restore its normal function in tumours."

Professor Callen's research will help develop novel therapeutics to reactivate mutant p53 in cancers.

Associate Professor Paul Reynolds has been awarded almost $90,000 to investigate specially designed viruses that can selectively kill cancer cells which cause mesothelioma, which is related to asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer which grows around the lungs, causing chest pain and death from suffocation. Even with the best treatment the average survival time is only 12-14 months after diagnosis.

"There is a long delay between asbestos exposure and the development of cancer (up to 30 years or more), which means that the incidence of mesothelioma is still rising. Australia has one of the highest incidences in the world so new treatments are desperately needed," Dr Reynolds says.

"We are combining this treatment with immune-boosting therapies in animal models of mesothelioma. So far we have seen very encouraging results in the animals, with major shrinkage of tumours. With these Cancer Council funds we will work towards trying this approach in patients with the disease," he said.

Geneticist Dr Michael Lardelli from the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science will use his $75,000 grant to investigate the role of a protein, Presenilin1, in causing cancer.

"We have discovered that shortened forms of this protein might keep cells in an immature state, which would promote cancer. In this project we hope to define these effects in more detail and understand how this happens."

Professor Glyn Jamieson from the University's Discipline of Surgery has received $72,250 for research into the diagnosis and treatment of reflux and cancer of the oesophagus.

"Oesophageal cancer is the fastest rising cancer in the world, often linked to reflux, and these research funds will allow us to further investigate the association between these two conditions," Professor Jamieson says.


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